October 2022
Refugee update from LexRAP
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We have certainly learned that refugees come in waves. When LexRAP started in 2015, people were newly arriving from Iraq and Syria, as well as northern Africa. Usually, refugees reach the US several years after the violence they are fleeing has dominated our news. They wait in refugee camps for years before receiving their "Golden Ticket" to the Golden Door at which Lady Liberty holds her torch high.

This last year we have seen conflict and arrivals coincide. As Kabul fell, Afghans arrived. As the war in Ukraine raged, the US opened its doors. Most of these people did not arrive with the permanent status of "refugee" - the Biden administration gave them entry to the US as Humanitarian Parolees. They have two years to apply and get asylum in order to become permanent residents in the U.S.

One of our Iraqis called LexRAP and its families a "tribe" and the label stuck. Within the last year, LexRAP has welcomed two Afghan families and two families from Ukraine into our tribe. The adjustment has been huge for these people, as it always is, but the folks are settling in. A heartwarming story about two sisters from Afghanistan follows:

When it became clear that the Taliban were taking over, Azar*, a 21-year-old college student knew she needed to leave her home in Kabul. Her older sister, Iffat did not want to go and leave their mother behind but didn't want Azar to go alone. Things happened very quickly, and within little time they were on a bus away from all that they knew and those they loved.  A few of their siblings were already in Europe and those left behind planned to include their mother in their exit plans. First stop for the sisters was Iraq, then a military base in Germany, then a base in Virginia.  At both bases they stayed in vast hangers with many people.  Finally, Ascentria - a resettlement agency connected them to LexRAP and they arrived in Lexington in mid -December. A family hosted them in their home.

With the takeover by the Taliban, college students in Afghanistan scattered across the globe. Bard College interestingly had had a relationship with the American University in Kabul and Azar had taken an online course at Bard. In April of last year, George Soros pledged a donation to Bard of $500 million. Bard's response to the Taliban take over was to announce that would offer 100 Afghan college students full scholarships and Azar was one of the first 33. After only about three weeks of settling into her new home in Lexington, Azar moved again to the college campus. 

Iffat had an engineering degree and was interested in an MBA program. Her host family helped her apply for a program in Texas that offered her a generous scholarship. While this application process proceeded, she took an art class at LexArt in Lexington (full scholarship), swam at Hayden, and took driving lessons. The Texas program came through for a Fall start date. In the summer, Iffat had a paid internship at the Lexington Department of Public Works. She is now in Texas, with classes in full swing.

Back to the Golden Ticket. America has always been proud to be called the land of opportunity. We herald the story of Horatio Alger as our truth. In the US we don't have concrete restrictions or ceilings on employment and social status such as the House of Lords as in England or a cast society like India. However, there is no denying that in the US, it takes a lot of hard work and a good deal of luck to get ahead.  The U.S. gives only three months of financial and social service support to refugees which is woefully little.  Our quick message is "get to work". Coming from a different culture, speaking a different language, and often suffering trauma, it is hard to navigate how to get ahead. LexRAP's role is to help navigate and help translate cultural norms.

As Azar adjusted to life in a very liberal college, she would call me to talk.  When they had a bad day, the Afghan students couldn't call back to Afghanistan because they knew those left behind were most likely having a worse day than they were.  My response to Azar was often that she had to make this work, even though the adjustment was huge.  Bard was most likely a once in a lifetime opportunity.  Soon, Azar would repeat back to me, “Yes, I know - suck it up. Yes, I know, America is the most Darwinian country on the planet." (She had to look that up). The idiom "dog eat dog world" became part of her vocabulary. But, Azar adjusted and not only did she have a stellar Spring term and land a paid internship at Pfizer for the summer, the internship was remote and thru LexRAP connections, she spent the summer with another host family on the cape with a room overlooking the bay. Pfizer has asked her to stay on on a part time basis during the school year and is insisting she put her classes as a priority.

Our families are mostly doing very well. The children in our “tribe” are doing particularly well. As they wait for their mother's arrival, our two Afghan sisters have pushed ahead. The money they make goes into the bank since they know that they will have to extend their hand to give others in their family help when they arrive.  The money to help Afghans is gone. America and perhaps the world has moved on to its next refugee crisis – Ukraine.

*Names have been changed – the sisters are still in the process of applying for asylum and some of their family remains in Afghanistan and all identities still need protection.

Marianne Boswell, Founder and President of LexRAP
Voices on the Green

Lexington’s  live storytelling and music event at First Parish in Lexington, will return on Friday, October 14,  at 7:00 pm with their first live performance since the pandemic darkened the stage. Appropriately, the theme for this show reflects not the frustration and isolation of the last two years but the optimism of our recovery: Silver Linings. Within each of the evening’s stories there is an unexpected discovery, reflection, renewal, transformation, or joy. 
One of the storytellers is LexRAP’s own Noor Alnajafe, a junior at Lexington High School whose parents came from Iraq. Tickets are $10 and $20 and are available on the VOTG website.

Learn more about LexRAP October 11th

Please come to a community informational meeting at 7 PM on Tuesday, October 11th at the Lexington Community Center at 39 Marrett Rd to learn how our 100% volunteer organization works and how you might become involved. Several LexRAP volunteers will speak about their experiences helping the families that LexRAP supports. Aimee Mitchell, Chief Community Services Officer for Ascentria, one of the major resettlement organizations in New England, will deliver opening remarks on efforts to resettle families arriving in Massachusetts from Afghanistan and Ukraine.  This meeting is for newcomers to LexRAP; current volunteers who haven't yet had an opportunity to volunteer; current volunteers who want to make a deeper commitment to LexRAP; and representatives of faith-based and other organizations interested in learning more about what’s involved with supporting a newly arrived family. We are so happy to be able to meet in person!

LexRAP Holds Dinner Fundraiser

After a two-year hiatus due to COVID, on Sunday, November 13 at 5:00 pm we will be holding our third international meal prepared by LexRAP’s refugee cooks, hosted by Temple Isaiah in Lexington. As in past years, we will be serving Middle Eastern cuisine with expected additions this year of Ukrainian and Jamaican selections. To purchase tickets for $50 each, please visit our Eventbrite page.

Today, LexRAP is serving 31 refugee families in and around Lexington with educational financial support, tutoring, employment assistance, help obtaining healthcare, socialization, transportation, and other services. Those supported hail from 11 nations. All have members working in and around Lexington.

If you can’t come to the dinner and would like to donate to LexRAP, please go to our website to make a donation.

LexRAP Receives Grant from Community Endowment of Lexington

LexRAP is excited to announce that the Community Endowment of Lexington awarded a grant to LexRAP to support its leadership transition project. Marianne Boswell, LexRAP's founder, is stepping down as President at the end of 2022 and as we contemplate new leadership we also are exploring what our next chapter might look like.  With grant funds, LexRAP has retained the services of two consultants with experience working with non-profit organizations -- Kevin Fisher and Callie McDowell -- to work with the LexRAP Board to re-examine our mission, how we go about helping families, how we can make the greatest impact, and what leadership structure will best position us to realize that impact. The Board will be working closely with Kevn and Callie throughout the fall. Thank you Community Endowment of Lexington!

LexART Exhibition and Reception for Refugee Artisans

LexArt is partnering with Refugee Artisans of Worcester (RAW) to stage a gallery exhibition of their artwork and handcrafts, bringing their artists and the RAW program to the attention of our community. RAW is a unique non-profit project that works to support refugees and assist them to self-sufficiency through the sale of their artwork, while archiving their heritage and cultural crafts.

The shows' artisans originate from the 10 African and Asian countries. RAW recognizes the beauty of the refugee populations’ traditional craft, the economic opportunity that craft practice provides them, the therapeutic value of working with their hands and engaging in their traditional craft in a foreign land, the dignity afforded them as a result, as well as the merits of assimilation given refugees through engaging in the business of producing and marketing their craft, managing their resources and engaging the English-speaking population.


International Institute of New England (IINE) resettles refugees in Lowell, Manchester and elsewhere in N.E. and offers on-going services such as ESL and support. A lot going on!  Suitcase Stories, Annual Gala and more.

Catholic Charities has been providing services to refugees for more than 100 years.

Ascentria resettles refugees and is the only agency that resettles unaccompanied minors in New England.

De Novo (formerly called CLSACC) provides free civil legal assistance and affordable psychological counseling for people with low incomes. ASYLUM: Immigrants who have fled their home country because of past persecution or fear of persecution because of race, religion, gender, nationality, social group or political views may be eligible to apply for asylum. De Novo has free walk in legal clinic where people can talk to immigration lawyers on the 3rd Wednesday from 5:15 to 7:15PM.

Mission of Deeds provides beds, furniture, and household essentials free of charge for people in need. Accepts donations of household goods and financial.

Household Goods provides a full range of donated furniture and household items, free of charge, to help people in need make a home. Staffed by volunteers, depends on the generosity of community members for goods, time and financial support. Please support us so that together we can continue to help people make a home during their time of greatest need.

Political Asylum/Immigration Representation (PAIR) Project provides free legal services to asylum seekers and promotes the rights of detained immigrants.

Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program (HIRC), in partnership with Greater Boston Legal Services has focused on direct representation of individuals applying for U.S. asylum and related protections.

Jewish Vocational Services (JVS Boston) supports members of the refugee community to develop English language skills and training with help to find employment and build careers, while partnering with employers.

NuDaySyria focuses on women and children and brings humanitarian aid inside Syria and to displaced Syrians in the bordering areas around Syria.
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LexRAP · 10 Grant Place · Lexington, MA 02420 · USA

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