Yesterday I went to Twin Falls with a group of students from BYU-I. They told me they wanted to do a service project for the refugees in the Twin Falls area. They said most of the refugees speak Arabic and so they may need me to help with translation.
We left Rexburg at 6 a.m. and after the 3-hour drive we finally made it to Twin Falls. We were hungry and tired, but we went to visit the first family because we had an appointment at 9 am. The family was from Congo and did not speak English or Arabic. We woke the teenage son up because he was the only one who spoke a little bit of English and we asked him to translate. I discovered I don't know anything about Congo...this family left their country years ago and finally had the chance of coming to the United States.
They still don't speak English, so it is hard for them to fit into this society. The second family we visited was the same...they had many children, below is a picture (sorry it is not that good).
We got yelled at and cussed out for parking by the home of the refugees even though there was no parking permit required. Didn't think anyone could be so rude.
I later found out that some people have issues with refugees and don't want them there. The director of the Refugee Center explained it to us. He said if a refugee family gets successful and makes enough money to buy a car, they call him to yell at him saying "why do you use our tax money to buy these refugees cars?" He said the taxes most refugees pay into the system is way more than the assistance they are initially given when they first arrive.
The director also did his best to explain why refugees are not terrorists and the type of screening they go through as they come into the country. I guess as part of his job he feels it necessary to convince people that refugees are not a threat. He also said that for a refugee to qualify to enter the US they must live in a refugee camp for more than 4 years.
After visiting that family from Congo, we went to visit a family from Sudan. This woman who was separated from her husband had 3 kids. Two of them were in school and the oldest never went to school. She fled from Sudan over 12 years ago and lived in Egypt for 10 years as a refugee. She didn't say why she left, but my guess was that her husband was abusive. She worked in hotels until she had to have surgery and lost her job. Her son also lost his job after being injured at work. It seems unfair, but some places don't treat refugees the same as they treat Americans.
They have been unemployed now for a while. She said she could not pay the rent yesterday ($150). I took her information and hope to connect her to someone who could help her or her son find work.
We visited two other families from Iraq, but they seemed to be doing really well.
As we asked the Refugee Center about the needs and what we can do to help, he mentioned kitchen items. He said refugees are not given many kitchen items when they arrive and donations like that are always needed. I also noticed that the family with many kids didn't seem to have many toys. So, I thought toys would also be good.
After visiting families all day we were so hungry and tired (we were hungry at the start). We finally decided to leave and stopped by subway. I had stake conference that night and wanted to be back in time. We ate fast and headed back to Rexburg.
I hope we all can pray for the many war-torn countries and pray for peace. It seems like the most things refugees struggle with is language and fitting in. If we can get local people involved to teach them English and help them find work, then they will feel welcomed and loved. We have been given much and are so blessed. May we reach out to help those in need.