Over the last few weeks, two students have become fast friends. This past year, Zubeda, a second grader, and her brothers started to attend our after school program for homework help. What Zubeda found was friendship. Fatima, a Kindergartener, also started to attend the after-school tutoring program this year. Although they come from different countries, their parents share a similar story. Both families settled in Grand Rapids after seeking refuge from war in their home countries. The two girls found a common bond when they started coming to the Refugee Education Center.
The other day, as they put their arms around each other, their expression became an example of what we see daily at the Refugee Education Center: students finding a safe place to learn and belong, and parents finding a hope for their children’s future.
So what does it look like to stand in hope for refugees in 2018?
Although numbers for resettlement to the US have dwindled in the past year, Grand Rapids has a strong presence of refugees creating a new life here. It currently is home to more than 25,000 refugees. As the news headlines transition away from the crisis abroad, the need still remains to support refugees here at home. So as we work together to stand in hope for refugees in our community, let us not stand by on the sidelines but stand in the gap.
At the Refugee Education Center, we were able to provide educational support to over 300 students in 2017. We have witnessed children excelling in their grades at school, overcoming language barriers, and going on to graduate. Yet, we also understand that without an environment of safety, a child cannot learn. So while providing educational support through course catch-up and English Language support, the Center also creates a space of hope, peace, and solidarity.
Standing in hope for refugees in Grand Rapids looks like creating support systems that work for our newest neighbors. It looks like hiring refugees in your business or visiting a refugee-owned business. It looks like creating a seat at the decision-making table. At The Refugee Education Center, it looks like tutoring a child or supporting our work financially.
So, let us choose to enter into new stories of hope right here in West Michigan. Let us choose to invest in the life of a child so he or she can reach their dreams to become our future doctors, lawyers, and educators.
The image of Zubeda and Fatima standing together reminds us of the hope refugee families seek when they come here. So while countries continue to be at war with each other, let us continue to stand in hope in our own community, in every way we can.
Stand with us… in hope.