Last Saturday, November 2nd, twelve people from Quest Church and about ten others from LifeWay Church participated in the Refugee Project – a three hour refugee simulation program of World Relief Seattle. The group met at the Eastern Hotel in Seattle’s historic International District.
World Relief is one of several organizations that support refugees as they integrate into their new communities. Part of this integration process includes educating the local community about refugees and their stories. Sandra Van Der Pol, Refugee Project Coordinator, has been leading the simulation for individuals, organizations and institutions for many years.
Quest Church has recently renewed a relationship with World Relief Seattle to further engage refugees and immigrants in the metro-Seattle area. LifeWay has also been looking into ways to get more connected.
The group spent the first part of the morning learning more about refugees – why they are here, where they are coming from, and how difficult the transition can be for many families. For example, even filling out a form in another language can often be a significant challenge for many refugees and immigrants.
Individuals were then separated into groups, where they were assigned specific roles within a fictional refugee family, including dressing up in traditional clothing from each specific region. One group took on the role of Chin refugees from Burma, who had escaped violence and persecution from the military junta. Each family proceeded to three different stations – a State Department interview, UNHCR Medical Screening, and a refugee camp food distribution center.
“Just putting oneself in the place of another brings that needed ingredient of empathy,” noted Faith White, one of the group participants.
Near the end of the program, participants had the opportunity to hear from a former refugee from Somalia, who fled Al-Shabab to seek asylum in the United States. The speaker shared her incredible journey to get here, as well as the adjustment period after she arrived.
Several members of the group also expressed the value of learning and growing together as members of the same congregation.
“I was so blessed to be in the presence of others desiring to learn and relate and process through such a huge issue in our world,” said Katrina Anderson, one of the leaders for the Refugee Engagement Ministry at Quest.
Interested volunteers should contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on how to get more involved.