This post, along with our previous post, is written by a BGR staff member with over a decade of experience working with refugees. We hope that these reminders will encourage you and equip you to work with refugees. We welcome your thoughts and questions below.
- Refugees are people, just like you and me, created in the image of God.
A recent volunteer working with refugees said that a turning point for her in relating to refugees was to stop referring to them as “refugees,” but rather just to view them as fellow human beings who have suffered tremendously. They had everything –just like you and me. They had a home, a daily routine, safety, security, community, but were forced to leave it all, literally running away to save their life! They are in need of love and acceptance.
- Refugees have basic needs: food, water, shelter, safety.
We take these things for granted. Just imagine going one day without food, water, and shelter. Imagine watching your son go hungry, listening to his cry for water under the hot sun… while you are unable to meet such a basic need. Another basic need (that is often overlooked) is simply human dignity. How can we help refugees feel “normal” in the midst of such a huge traumatic event that is anything but “normal”?
- Refugees also have deep emotional needs.
Many of them have traumatic stories. Be willing to listen to them and let them share their stories with you. Recently we ran a day-camp for refugee children and their mothers. It was amazing to watch the tension ease as mothers realized their children could run about barefoot in a safe place, not having to worry what might happen to them. We watched as the children smiled and laughed as they played. They had fun and were able to just “be children” with hoola-hoops, blowing bubbles, making bead bracelets, and face painting! But then, in the midst of it all, a fight broke out between a small girl and boy over a simple hand-made craft. Their emotions were obviously raw and close to the surface.
- The mass of needs is overwhelming. We can start by helping one person at a time.
It is easy to stand by and think, “The problem is too great! There are too many refugees… I am just ONE person!” One person can still make a difference in the life of one refugee. You can listen to their story about their experiences and deep pain. You can hug a child. You can smile at a shy covered woman. You can give out of your abundance so others can begin to start their life over again!
- Refugees aren’t waiting on you or me to come and help them.
Most of them are resilient and working hard to survive. The preconceived perception that refugees are simple, uneducated people is at best a generalization. Many are city-dwellers, university graduates, engineers, doctors, etc. They just want a chance to start over, to work in order to provide for themselves and their families with dignity. The need is so much more than just providing a meal or weekly food package.
- When we help the refugee, we help ourselves and we honor God.
Over the past year, we have encountered many people in need. We have reached out to show love and to meet that need. Often it is just as simple as connecting someone in need with a local partner in their area (as refugees travel through different countries). Utilizing technology, we were able to connect a young couple expecting their first baby with a local trusted family who took them in. This young mother was so relieved to have somewhere safe and clean to stay! Her response was, “You came like an angel for us.” Now they’re proud parents of a beautiful baby, and they send us photos of their baby!
Remember, refugees are people. They have basic and in some cases deep emotional needs. While those needs may seem overwhelming as we look from the outside, we can start with one person and one need at a time and make a difference. They aren’t waiting on us to come and help them. They will find a way to survive. However, they will welcome our efforts and we can honor God, grow in our faith, and help bring the love of Christ to those in need if only we will simply take a step of faith and get involved.
This post concludes our series on refugees. I would love to hear your experiences and thoughts as you’ve read these posts. Comment below, and I will respond as soon as I can!