Over the past couple of months, we have received numerous calls and emails from individuals in our community interested in supporting refugees in our community. Many ask how we can make our community a welcoming place for newcomers. As we kick off the New Year we asked several of our refugee friends and colleagues to share their thoughts on what we can do to welcome refugees in 2017.
“First, they need help and guidance. Refugees go through a lot that most people can’t imagine. Those fortunate enough to come to the United States come seeking peace, equality, freedom, and justice. It’s not their choice to come here. They have been forced. I mean, no one really wants to leave their native country. So when we see a refugee family we should treat them with respect and give them a warm welcome and support them with what we have. We need to put our differences aside to help them so they can also help us—learn their ways and help teach your ways.”
“Acknowledging me with a smile when you see me or saying a simple greeting. On a larger scale, I think it would mean a lot for institutions that serve a high concentration of the refugees to hire someone from the refugee population who speaks the language and is aware of the culture. I think communication is always hard for new arrivals and those with limited English proficiency.”
- “Talk to your children about accepting newcomers, regardless of where someone has come from. Encourage children to welcome everyone who is new at school, not just refugees.
- Point out that many new arrivals face more challenges such as language or shyness, so encourage children to be patient and understanding.
- Invite refugee children or families over for play dates. But don’t pry for information about what they have gone through. Playtime is for play. Set a coffee date if you want an adult chat.
- Don’t make assumptions about cultural issues, because everyone is different.
- Ask about cultural or dietary restrictions if you’re inviting them over for a meal.”
“In my opinion the most important thing in welcoming refugees one needs to be open minded, try to understand cultural differences. It is very important to try and understand people and have knowledge or a bit of understanding of what they deem important to them. They have come from so far, they do not need commiseration but to feel empowered and like they belong. And with this, a conducive environment is created.”
Thank you all for sharing!