New Canaan Welcomes will launch its refugee resettlement program at a festive community gathering at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church on Sunday, January 29 at 3:00PM. The gathering will take place in Morrill Hall. There will be tables representing different aspects of refugee resettlement work for which volunteers may lend their expertise and attention: housing and health care, education and ESL, driving and public transportation, interpreting services and employment, clothing and furnishings, finance and family budgeting, government agencies and acculturation. There is no shortage of ways to be useful. All are invited to learn about the initiative and see how they might get involved. Refreshments will be served.
Chris George, executive director of IRIS: Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services, speaks at St. Mark’s with a special purpose. New Canaan Welcomes has been approved by IRIS to welcome a refugee family to the area in the coming weeks.
January 22, 2017 Sermon: Chris George, executive director of IRIS: Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services
New Canaan Welcomes was founded by concerned mom Juli Kurtzman and quickly embraced by over 100 local moms on Facebook. After St. Mark’s Episcopal Church partnered with NCW to become the group’s fiscal sponsor, volunteers have been gearing up to receive a refugee family through IRIS, the resettlement organization based in New Haven. Numerous NCW volunteers have attended IRIS training programs; others continue to be recruited on Facebook, through St. Mark’s, and word of mouth; and necessary funds are being raised through a gofundme campaign (www.gofundme.com/ncwelcomes).
There is only so much that can be done online. This is neighbor-to-neighbor work, and through this community gathering, NCW hopes to come face to face with others who have a heart for this undertaking. Making a difference by welcoming a refugee family, bringing them to safety and providing a leg up to self-sufficiency, is not new here. The First Presbyterian Churches of New Canaan and Stamford have successfully done this, and groups in Wilton, Darien, and other local towns are doing the same.
Refugees are persons who are forced to flee their home countries because of a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. IRIS works with the U.S. State Department’s Office of Refugee Resettlement, which ensures that applicants go through a vetting process that typically takes 2 years. Many have been waiting for much longer, however. Of the approximately 14 million refugees worldwide, about 50,000 are invited to start new lives in the United States. Of these, approximately 500 resettle in Connecticut annually.