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Issue #38 February 2020
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Lexington Refugee Assistance Program

LexRAP UPDATES
February 2020

Moe (not his real name) contacted LexRAP by using the “contact us” link on our website.  He needed housing.  He was seeking asylum and could not yet work and was ‘couch surfing’ and running out of couches.  A few emails went back and forth. Then he came to Lexington and we gave him $300 to assist him.  A month later, we checked in, he still had no place to go.  We offered a basement room and he moved in.  Moe was from Africa and spoke English. He had had a professional job before the political situation made it unsafe for him to stay in his country and he fled.  He filed for asylum.

A week after arriving in Lexington got involved. Moe volunteered at LexRAP events.  We continued to assist him with $300 a month and with this support, he felt uplifted and connected to something.

Moe got a date for an asylum hearing in November.  Asylum seekers have no rights to legal representation.  Moe found a pro-bono attorney.   He and his lawyer prepared hundreds of pages in support of his case showing that he met the criteria of a refugee under U.S. law: “a ‘refugee’ is a person who is unable or unwilling to return to his or her home country because of a “well-founded fear of persecution” due to race, membership in a particular social group, political opinion, religion, or national origin”. In 2016, roughly 40% of those seeking asylum were denied; in 2019, 69% were denied and the number applying dramatically increased.  Moe and his attorney spent hours preparing. At hearings, attorneys may attend but may not speak on client’s behalf. Moe came back from the hearing feeling he had done his best and said the agent interviewing him had been fair and even kind.  Moe then began what could be months of waiting to hear if his asylum was granted; if not granted, he would then have to go before a judge, which could take several years to get scheduled.

Fifteen days later, a call: “I got it!  I got asylum!” We were shocked and thrilled! Permission to work was immediate. Within a week, he applied for over 30 jobs with a resume he had been carefully working on.  Within a month he got calls for interviews.  Grass certainly doesn’t grow under Moe’s feet!  He came back from the first interview saying he thought it went well and three days later got the job offer and started work right away.  Not enough for Moe….he soon applied for a graduate program. By February, he had a job, was a matriculating grad student and had moved out of the basement.  Everyone around him had smiles on their faces.  Such success!

If only all stories were like this.  They are not.  Moe arrived speaking English with a profession that was transferable, unlike, for example physicians, who cannot legally draw blood in this country without a US certification.  Many refugees spend years in camps where their skills languish; their focus must be on basic survival.  Fewer than 1% of refugees living in camps ultimately get placed in a new country.  The picture for asylum seekers has gotten grimmer.  However, nothing can diminish the joy and enthusiasm Moe has for his new country

Record Number of Asylum Cases in FY 2019
https://trac.syr.edu/immigration/reports/588/
 
Next Steering Committee Meeting
February 27th  at 7PM
Temple Isaiah on Lincoln St, Lexington

 
Please come a few minutes early, as we always start the meeting on time. Steering meetings are open to all who are actively working on LexRAP projects or for those curious to understand more about what LexRAP is doing and finding a way to help. Parking is in the back of the church.
 
March Steering Committee Meeting date: 03/23 , location TBD
Love Has No Borders
Winchester Unitarian Society fundraiser for LexRAP
Saturday March 14, 7-9pm
Jenks Center, 109 Skillings Road, Winchester
Donations at the door

Winchester Unitarian Society is hosting a community-wide fundraiser to create awareness of refugee and immigrant experiences, inspiring hope-filled action through the power of stories and music. Proceeds will benefit LexRAP.

LexRAP’s own Marianne Boswell will share her family’s refugee story and how LexRAP began with the question, “Who’s with me?”  Dr. Jawad Abo-Tabik will share his story of, after years of displacement, finally finding a place to belong in Lexington.   

Marianne and Jawad will be joined by storytellers:
-Abdi Nor Iftin, a refugee from Somalia who lived in Kenya before immigrating to the U.S. will share his story of life before coming the U.S., chronicled on NPR’s, This American Life: “Abdi and the Golden Ticket” and in his memoir, Call Me American.
-Patty Cameron, a Sanctuary volunteer and part of an interfaith coalition that provides safety and companionship to an immigrant at risk of deportation.  
-Karen Hirschfeld, co-chair of the Immigrant Justice Committee of the Network for Social Justice will share her vision for Winchester as a Safe Community for all.

Interwoven throughout the evening, Manuel, Betty Anne and Gabriella Díaz will perform Spanish folk music from the country Manuel fled as a 6-year old child with his family during the Spanish Civil War. Beth Levin, Cantor at Temple Shir Tikvah, will lead the audience in songs which are sung at interfaith vigils at ICE detention centers.


 
Upcoming Hand-in-Hand Community Dinners

Hand-in-Hand Cafe dates for 2020
All meals will be halal, and nut and alcohol free

Purchase soon so you don’t miss out!  Dinners will resume after a summer break.

Mar 7, Apr 4, June 13:  Tickets here. Purchase soon so you don’t miss out!

NOTE: Mar 7 & June 13 dinners starts at 6PM. Apr 4 dinner starts at 7PM.

We are looking for someone to help with marketing on the dinners.  Not too much work but needed to keep up our SOLD OUT! Record. If interested email Naomi.

If you would like to help with the dinners, volunteers are needed on the day of the dinners for set up, clean up, baby sitting and more.  This is a really fun and a good way to meet the cooks and other volunteers! To volunteer for either short term or on-going management of the project.  If you want a seat at dinner, please buy a ticket even if you volunteer. Contact Jilana.

We continue to be thankful that all dinners are hosted at 1st Parish Church in Lexington on the town Battle Green. A fabulous video about Hand-in-Hand was created by Rick Dorrington with LexMedia can still be enjoyed YouTube.

  • Please consider Donating to Family Reunification Fund. We are raising money to help the refugees we are involved with be re-united with their families.  We have people who have become US citizens or received their Green Cards and for whom it is finally safe to travel to their country of origin and folks waiting for the US government to allow their immediate family into the US. The cost of their travel to the US will be expensive. Others have children born in refugee camps or in the US who have never met grandparents and other relatives. And for still others, the only way to see their family is to meet in a neutral country since they can’t return to their country of origin.  All of these costs are beyond their means.  For all these reasons, we have started a Family Reunification Fund.  We have already purchased plane tickets for two trips to Jordan and Iraq. One was for a mother to see her husband and long-separated children, the other for a family medical emergency. If you would like to donate to this fund, please CLICK HERE. Put the fund name on your check or along with the on-line donation.
     
  • Hosting - Do you have an extra room?  Currently we are hosting four  asylum seekers. The rules around applying for asylum in the United States have changed and the wait to get asylum keeps getting longer. This problem exists here in New England – not just at our Southern border.  All of this translates into people who are seeking asylum needing financial help and housing.  LexRAP families have opened their homes to individuals and LexRAP has provided financial support for these folks until they can legally work.  If you have an extra room and can provide housing for an asylee we will first introduce you to someone who has hosted an asylee and explain the process. If interested in exploring this much needed and wonderful way to help, please contact Bruce.
LexRAP continues to collect Laptops!
It’s a way to search for services or a job, communicate with teachers, prepare for citizenship exams, complete school assignments practice English, or stay in touch with friends and family.
Most of LexRap’s families qualify for very low-cost internet access for $10/month, but they need devices! Beyond the families we are directly supporting, we give laptops to students in families through resettlement agencies. Does your company retire laptops after a few years of use? Is someone in your life getting a new laptop? Consider donating the old one. Maybe you have an unused laptop taking up space? Consider donating it!  Would your church or synagogue or school or scout troop like to organize a laptop drive (similar to a coat drive)?

The description of units that we can refurbish is here (scroll down). Make sure to tape passwords to the laptop so we can access and wipe information. Contact Peggy for drop-off locations or contact Peter for technical questions.
Providing a home for an unaccompanied refugee minor.  Do you have room in your heart and space in your home to become a foster parent to an unaccompanied minor? These children tend to be teens and are resilient. If you become a foster parent to a refugee minor, LexRAP will put a network of support together to help. Contact Bruce to learn more about this program.
 
More Tutors and Social Workers!   We have had the extraordinary luck to have experienced teachers as tutors and this has worked very well.  We appoint a social worker as the lead and that person stays in touch with the school and coordinates as well as helps the family navigate communication with the school. We have found that the needs for the children with disrupted education are less about spoken language than basic education and also that vocabulary and reading are essential needs to help the children catch up – which the children do rapidly. Contact Elizabeth.

Monthly Lunch Program
“Building Bridges One Meal at a Time.” 

LexRAP funds this hugely successful monthly initiative. People make, bring, and then share a homemade lunch at an English Language Learners class at IINE, a resettlement agency in Lowell.  This is an excellent opportunity to get involved with LexRAP by sharing lunch and conversation with the ESL learners.  Contact Babs for more information and to sign up for one of the monthly lunch events.

LexRAP's Sustained Giving Initiative
LexRAP's Sustained Giving Initiative is a way to give monthly and we have had several people sign up to be Sustaining Givers. Individuals can now go online at our website and give a little or a lot, automatically every month. You can find our postal address if you are using a check, or our Paypal link if you prefer to make your donation online.
LexRAP OUTREACH!  
 
LexRAP also welcomes the opportunity to do presentations at churches, temples, senior citizen communities, and other organizations. Typically our volunteers provide a 20-minute PowerPoint introduction with Q&A to help educate and engage people around refugee issues and to discuss what LexRAP is doing to assist asylum seekers and refugee families locally. We want to expand these presentations and could use help to make some calls to organizations in Lexington and surrounding towns. We have a list of 15 or so organizations to be contacted. If you can help, please contact Tom and let him know you're willing to make some calls.
EVENTS AND AGENCY CONTACT INFO
 

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. https://www.denovo.org/

Mission of Deeds Provides beds, furniture, and household essentials free of charge for people in need. Accepts donations of household goods and financial.  http://www.missionofdeeds.org/

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. https://householdgoods.org/

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. https://hls.harvard.edu/dept/clinical/clinics/harvard-immigration-and-refugee-clinical-program/

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. https://iine.org

Catholic Charities has been providing services to refugees for more than 100 years. https://www.catholiccharitiesusa.org/our-ministry/immigration-refugee-services/

Ascentria resettles refugees and is the only agency that resettles unaccompanied minors in New England. https://www.ascentria.org/

NuDaySyria focuses on women and children and brings humanitarian aid inside Syria and to displaced Syrians in the bordering areas around Syria. http://www.nudaysyria.net/

Refugee Immigration Ministry (RIM) One of the few organizations to provide support to asylum seekers.  Volunteer opportunities for mentors and ESL teachers. http://www.r-i-m.net/

 
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LexRAP · 3 Jeffrey Terrace · Lexington, MA 02420 · USA

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