Nebraska has one of the highest rates of growth in immigrant and refugee populations in the United States. In the last year, Lutheran Family Services (LFS), resettled over 1,000 refugees, many from Afghanistan. Other families arrive from South Sudan, Somalia, Burma, Ukraine, Afghanistan, and many other locations across the globe.
Although this is a lot of people, according to the most recent numbers from the United Nations, over 103 million people are forcibly displaced across the globe. At least 41% of these people are children, with many of them born in refugee camps. To qualify for refugee status individuals must fall under a certain category of persecution, like religion, race, or political ideology. Out of the 32.5 million people who qualify for refugee status, less than 1% end up resettling in a new country.
Many organizations in the United States work with these families to provide the services they need when they arrive in the United States. However, to receive government funding, many organizations can only support families for their first 90 days in the United States. After that, families are left to fend for themselves.
This is where others, such as Sheila Ziems, step in to continue supporting these families as they settle into their new lives in the United States. Sheila has worked with multiple families for many years in a variety of different ways such as:
- Spending time in their homes
- Playing with their kids, bringing them toys and games
- Teaching them how to drive
- Working with them on their English
- Taking older kids to a movie
- Going to a park
- Finding out their needs
- Being on-call in case they need to go to the doctor, store, or appointments
- Giving rides to church
- Planning fun outings for them to go to the school (play in the gym/with a few of Mrs. Leimbach´s Kindergarten toys)
- Telling LFS if they are in need of something within their 90-day window (WHICH IS SO SHORT of a time to be acclimated into new surroundings, get a job, learn the language/customs/how to navigate the city, etc.!)
- Helping in anyway after they have “timed out” of LFS services
- Find them items for their home
- Trying to find clothes for each season
- For peace and prosperity to all refugees trying to build a new life, especially children
- For safety to all the people in refugee camps, areas of conflict, or facing persecution
- For people who have a safe home, to open their hearts and support those needing a welcoming hand
- For the families who have “timed out” of other services and are on their own to continue acclimating to a new country, culture, language, and way of life
Donations given through the Outreach of the Month envelope will be utilized by Sheila to purchase items and gifts for the families she supports. Sheila uses the funds to purchase things such as Lincoln Children’s Museum passes for families (at a discounted rate for low-income families) so they can enjoy the Museum with their children.
There will be a barrel in the Narthex collecting other donations for families. Donations of toilet paper, paper towels, napkins, tissues, deodorant, and toothpaste are greatly appreciated. Additionally, tech items that still work, but you don’t need (old phone, TV, computer, Chromebook, etc.) are appreciated by so many families!
Sheila does so much to help these families and she would be glad to use your help! This could look like a more regular volunteer opportunity or being on-call as needed. Some opportunities to interact with families include:
- Be on-call to transport families to Trinity Lutheran School for a play time (usually Saturday or Sunday afternoons). Most live really close to school so this would be a short time-commitment.
- Be on-call in case a family needs a ride to and from the grocery store.
- Be willing to go into a home with Sheila and meet a family, have tea, and play with the little ones.
- Contact Sheila if you have (or know of someone who has) items to donate (especially kitchen appliances, chairs/couches, shelves, toys, children’s books, baby equipment, gently used shoes and coats, etc.).
- Be on-call if you know technology and can help her help a family.
- Be a ride to Sunday School and church services.
- Be on-call to drive families to and from the Lincoln Children’s Museum.
To learn more or to get involved, contact the Church Office at 402-474-0606 or email@example.com.