By Emily Laney, Director of Refugee Services, LSG
Today is World Refugee Day. It is a time for us to remember and celebrate our refugee neighbors. Each year I write about this day, and each year I think about how important it is that we continue our country’s tradition of welcome. This year is, of course, no exception. We have entered an unprecedented season in the work of welcoming refugees. The number of displaced people around the world has soared to over 65 million people, and that number is growing by the day. The political climate has resulted in increased support for our programs from individuals and community groups, but also has also brought on much uncertainty and scrutiny.
I have been reflecting on what I can say about refugees on this important day. I could tell you about the robust security screening process, the incredible outcomes on our clients’ self sufficiency, or how refugees are a net gain on our economy. Those things are all important, but on a day like today I’m reminded more of the incredible stories I’m blessed to hear each day – stories of refugees who have found success in their new homes.
I think about baby Moses or young Mayi who were unable to have their medical or developmental needs met until they arrived here in Georgia. Now they are thriving and receiving the care they need. I think about Zakaria or Monica, who faced lengthy journeys searching for safety and are now United States Citizens. I think about our Syrian clients, who tell us that their greatest hope is for their children to go to school. I look at our staff who are former refugees themselves and am in awe of how they put in long hours each day to ensure that other families receive the same opportunities to thrive. I think about our single moms who care for their babies while working full-time in a new place where they know very few people. I have many more stories I could share and many more refugees I could mention by name who are doing amazing things in their new communities.
Refugees are the heroes of their own story, we at LSG are just participants. We are privileged to help these families in those first few months as they start their new lives here, and we celebrate as they find success. And we want more and more Georgians to join us in meeting and befriending Georgia’s newest residents.
Now more than ever it is our collective responsibility to “welcome the stranger.” The need has never been greater and, in some ways, the obstacles have never been larger. But the opportunity is equally impactful during this time. Today is a great day for you to take the first step of engaging with our refugee neighbors. Our refugee clients are grateful to make new friends and receive assistance in navigating their new home, but it is equally as powerful and meaningful to each of us in refugee resettlement as we work to create communities and a country that welcome refugees.