December 17

Refugees 101

Like many people I have felt helpless watching the mass migrations of refugees from Syria into Turkey and throughout US and Europe. While it’s gotten less attention in the media, similar streams of refugees from Congo,  Myanmar (Burma) and other countries have been quietly making their way to the US as well. When I found out a group of friends had formed to sponsor a family I jumped at the chance to join them. That was how I ended up spending part of my day at Refugee One’s HQ today getting mentorship training on what we will need to prepare for the family we will be working with. Our church is also planning to co-sponsor and mentor a family so in the next few months I will be learning a lot about refugees. I have several friends who were refugees and are now citizens, but each has a different story. The numbers that I learned today were sobering and are worth sharing.

1% – That’s the percentage of refugees worldwide who are granted permission to resettle in a third country

70% – That’s the percentage of refugees worldwide who get permission to resettle in a third country who resettled in the US last year

85% – The percentage of the same group this year

5 – That’s the number of gallons of water a family is allocated in a refugee camp

17 – That’s the average number of years a family stays in a refugee camp before they are given papers to emigrate to a third country – got that? 17 years living in a tent, living with 5 gallons of water and waiting for basic rations. 17 years waiting to get permission to restart your life in safety. 17 years.

Less than 1 day – That’s the amount of notice a refugee is given before they know where they will be resettled. Typically they learn that they are going to a specific city when they board the plane.

6 months – That’s the amount of time refugees are given to learn a new language, get a job, get their children up to speed in local schools and become self-sufficient

5 years – That’s the amount of time a refugee has to wait to become a US citizen

The most important number is one only you can decide. How much money can you spare to donate to the UN High Commission on Refugees, Refugee One or a group who will be mentoring an incoming refugee family? Can your house of worship, your block, your book group sponsor a family?