By Amy Blackwell, Immigrant and Refugee Justice Ministry Team
Last month, I got to watch as children whose families had recently fled violence in countries like Afghanistan, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo gathered in a Raleigh apartment complex to go shopping for new clothes. All the clothes were donated by UUFR members, and the play “money” they used was earned by doing homework and other activities that help them integrate into American society.
The clothing store was created by UUFR member Michele Hutchins, working together with an employee of Lutheran Services Carolina, a refugee resettlement agency. Together, they developed a program where the young refugees could do educational activities with their teacher and earn dollars to shop at a children’s clothing store.
This was the second time this year we held the store, which is staffed by UUFR volunteers. It was a huge success. The store was decorated by Michele’s daughter and my granddaughter using drawings from the UUFR youth ministry.
Over forty children ages 2 through teenage shopped and picked out items they wanted. The generosity of the membership provided a very large collection of clothing. Volunteers, including my granddaughter, helped the children with sizes and selections. Snacks were available and many of the children played games outside the store on a beautiful day. Volunteers also packed clothes for children of several newly arrived Afghan families and assisted a large Iraqi family who needed clothes.
The day was a testament to the resilience of children, and to the generosity of UUFR’s membership and the power of community. Our ministry team collected clothing in the fellowship hall, in the Action Lot, and by picking it up at people’s homes. Under Michele’s leadership the Refugee and Immigrant Ministry Team sorted them by gender and size at one of our regular meetings and then delivered them to the site on the day of the sale. We collected so many clothes that we are able to provide for many newly arrived Afghan families, as well as the children participating in the store.
Often, we donate without ever meeting the people who benefit. But this time, we got to see the results of our work. Refugee children deserve to be welcomed to our state with open arms, and we were grateful for the opportunity to help do that.
If you want to get involved with the Immigrant and Refugee Justice Ministry Team, contact Pat McLaughlin or Amy Blackwell at [email protected].