April 2022
Refugee update from LexRAP
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LexRAP started in September 2015 as we watched the march to Europe by refugees from Syria and North Africa. In our short existence we have seen waves of people fleeing the Middle East and Africa and then Afghanistan and now Ukraine, while always watching the influx from South and Central America. It doesn’t get any easier as we gain knowledge and experience. In fact, it gets harder. Just when one thinks they might have done some good, a new fire breaks out. A helping hand reaches out to one group and then a new group needs a hand. Stress and fear become exponential as the world forgets that the fire is still smoldering or perhaps even raging in the last place from which refugees fled. The world watches Ukraine beat all odds militarily while suffering incredible human loss from Russia decimating its towns, cities, infrastructure, and economy. Wars are no longer ‘an ocean away’ with social media bringing the horror to us instantly and in graphic detail. We have heard that most Ukrainians who will end up in the US from this war will most likely come here under our family reunification policies. The expectation is that those who fled to nearby countries will go back and rebuild when this senseless war ends.

Refugees from other recent wars and conflicts don’t have such immediate plans to return to their native country. This is one of the reasons LexRAP stays involved with the families for as long as they want our help.

LexRAP partnered with Ascentria, one of the three big resettlement agencies in New England, and hosted two sisters from Afghanistan. Ascentria partnered with WelcomeNST and has over 60 NSTs (Neighborhood Support Teams) in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Each NST has committed to hosting at least one family from Afghanistan and that has led them to resettle about double the number of people they originally were slated to help. LexRAP decided to become one of the NSTs because this kind of community resettlement is what we have done but in the past, we have done it after the work the resettlement agencies started had been completed. With our Afghan sisters, we have hosted them in homes and been involved with them almost immediately from their arrival.

One of the sisters arrived with a full scholarship to Bard College. Over the last many years, Bard has had an exchange program with the American University in Kabul. Serendipitously, Bard recently got a huge donation from the George Soros Foundation. Bard has committed to giving full scholarships to 100 Afghan college students displaced by the change of government in Afghanistan. When the government fell, college students – both men and women - scattered all over the world for safety. This semester the program started, and our sister is one about 30 students on campus. The number in the Fall will be 100. Some of these students have family here but many do not.

LexRAP has offered to find host families for those who might want that for holidays and college breaks as well as to give the kids an American family that they can call when they have a bad day or want a non-college voice to help them navigate life in their new country. Our Bard student organized a group to come to Lexington for their March break. The kids loved their time here! They went on outings to Crane’s Beach and Boston; had a potluck at First Parish; and just hung with their host families. They were given a tour by the Lexington Historical Society and learned about the Battle on the Green. In just one week, the kids established relationships with their hosts. We are not sure how many Bard kids will want hosts, but kids went back to college raving about their “Spring Break” and the college knows we are here and ready to help.

One of the core missions of LexRAP has been to help others do what we do.  We believe that community resettlement is the best way to give refugees their best start in America.  What is community resettlement? One of our hosts, Donna Vaillancourt, put it best, “We have traditionally resettled refugees in communities they can afford like Lynn and Lowell but what we should do is resettle them in communities that can afford to support them.”  If each town took in one family and surrounded that family with support, not only would the children and adults have the best opportunity to thrive, the town, in return, would be enriched.  Imagine a family with four children in school (as was the case when Donna and her husband Sean Kavanagh took in a family), those four children brought a completely different life experience to their classmates.  Five years later, people from the tiny town of Carlisle are still in touch with the family, though the family moved next door to Concord.  The family is doing well and are now all US Citizens.

In an effort to share our experience and lessons learned, LexRAP has written a resource guide called “Hand in Hand, A Guide to Working With New Arrivals”.  We have put this guide on our website to be downloaded by any and all who might find it useful. (link here) The extensive effort was led by Elizabeth Ellen, a LexRAP Board member and  LICSW who has been heavily involved with LexRAP from nearly the beginning.  The Community Endowment of Lexington provided some funding for the project.  The list of contributors is too long to list here. The guide is filled with useful information.

As we write this newsletter and with the resource guide in our pocket (not really – it is too big!) last weekend, LexRAP volunteers worked with a group in Medford to get ready to welcome an extended family of 10 from Afghanistan.  The group, the UU Church, has temporary housing for the family.  The Medford team along with a LexRAP team sprang into action to find sufficient beds, linens, cooking utensils and other essentials. The families are expected to arrive in Massachusetts this week. Needless to say, we are eager to meet them!  We anticipate that we will be calling on a host of volunteers to assist the families get settled. 

The core group in Medford has met with LexRAP over the last several weeks, asking questions and learning from LexRAP leaders.  This all came about because a member of this family had studied at Tufts University and contacted them and Tufts got in touch with Ascentria and Ascentria called LexRAP and asked if we might have some ideas on how to help this family.   LexRAP called the church in Medford and learned that they had recently been discussing how they could get involved and help refugees. The mentoring we have started with the Medford UU Church and will continue to offer them is an excellent use of our experience, expertise and now our excellent resource guide.

And then from here….use the rest of the last newsletter below


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.

Refugee Immigration Ministry (RIM) One of the few organizations to provide support to asylum seekers.  Volunteer opportunities for mentors and ESL teachers.

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LexRAP · 10 Grant Place · Lexington, MA 02420 · USA

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