My letter to you regarding the Refugee Admissions Setback


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Dear Friend,

I'm writing to make sure you're aware of the disheartening news regarding the United States' Refugee Resettlement Program. Last week, The Trump Administration announced its intention to set the 2020 refugee admissions ceiling to 18,000: the lowest number in the history of the program. An Executive Order now grants authority to states and local governments to deny refugee resettlement in their communities. This order violates the United States' commitment to welcome the most vulnerable refugees into our country.

Everyone here at Inspiritus, an affiliate of LIRS, is disappointed by this staggering setback. Lifesaving programs that have held bipartisan support for the past forty years are systematically being dismantled.

This issue is a deeply personal one for me. My family fled the Rwandan genocide, and we were fortunate enough to be among the less than 1% of all refugees worldwide to be offered a chance to rebuild our life through this program. I still have a photo of my father and I arriving at the Atlanta airport as refugees in 1997 (pictured below).

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Today, I'm privileged to lead an incredible team here at Inspiritus. Like myself, several other staff members are former refugees, and they bring their bravery and resiliency to work every single day.

There are two things you can do to help us in this fight:

1) Please donate to our refugee services here and select Refugee Services in the pull-down menu.
Help us continue to be both a state and a nation that provides safety for our immigrants. Your donation will go towards providing day-to-day needs to newly arrived refugees: an apartment, food, health screenings, orientation, legal documents, and school registration for children. Visit our refugee services page for a full list of services.

2) Contact your elected reps in Georgia, and members of Congress, to ask them to support the GRACE ACT(Guaranteed Refugee Admission Ceiling Enhancement Act).


I want to thank you for your constant support during these past few challenging years. We will continue to advocate for a robust resettlement program and serve refugees who now call Georgia their home.

Kind Regards,
- Aimee Zangandou
Director of Refugee and Immigration Services Inspiritus

INSPIRITUS Gains Nationally Recognized Disaster Response Expert Sherry Buresh, Just In Time For Devastating Hurricane Season.

SHERRY BURESH, INSPIRITUS’ NEW DIRECTOR OF DISASTER RESPONSE

SHERRY BURESH, INSPIRITUS’ NEW DIRECTOR OF DISASTER RESPONSE

Currently, Inspiritus is responding to Hurricane Dorian in the state of North Carolina. We have increased our team and capacity and have hired Sherry Buresh as our Director of Disaster Response. 

We are thrilled to welcome Sherry Buresh to our team to lead this effort. Sherry brings her extensive experience in leading countless disaster responses, including:

  • Hurricane Katrina

  • Hurricane Harvey

  • Hurricane Irma

  • Hurricane Maria

  • Pilger, Nebraska Tornadoes

  • Nashville, Tennessee Floods

  • Gatlinburg, Tennessee Fires

  • Nepal Earthquake

Sherry's career in disaster relief began following Hurricane Katrina, when she deployed a team of 60 volunteers to a base called Camp Victor at Christus Victor Lutheran Church,Ocean Springs, MS, where she worked alongside the Rev. Dr. P. Morgan Gordy, Pastor of Christ Lutheran Church in Nashville, TN.

Sherry was on the job with Inspiritus for three days when we first got wind of Hurricane Dorian. She rapidly put together a plan with little to no resources, and set us in motion to prepare to respond. Our long-term recovery staff were already deployed along the Georgia coast and in South Georgia, helping homeowners who have yet to recover from Hurricane Irma and Michael. Sherry was especially concerned about how Hurricane Dorian might impact those vulnerable homes.

“No two disasters are alike. Everything can change in a split second, and you have to tap into the best resources you have at any given moment,” says Sherry.

With her leading the way, Inspiritus quickly established a Dorian Response lead volunteer team, ready to deploy and setup a volunteer base along the Georgia coast, if needed. As Dorian made its slow journey along the southeastern US coastline, Sherry had staff calling on our clients all along the coast, preparing them for the storm and checking on them the morning after. We were relieved to learn our clients were safe from additional damages.

However, our attention quickly shifted to the North Carolina coast, where Ocracoke Island suffered 6-8 foot storm surges and hundreds of homes in the region were damaged. Many families impacted by Dorian in North Carolina are facing a devastating loss of hope right now, especially those who have yet to recover from last year's Hurricane Florence.

“It’s the combination of partners which matters. The community effort of all showing up...no one can take care of a disaster alone. It takes a village, as they say. I follow my gut instincts and thankfully, have built a good network and loving partnerships all over the world,” says Sherry.

Right now, Sherry and her team are operating a base camp along the North Carolina coast, and have a thick binder full of homes in need. Most of these homeowners are low-to-no income women or men with disabilities, many are senior citizens who are alone, and all are suffering exposure to unhealthy living situations due to mold and water damage that grows worse each week.

When Sherry is not deployed or training partner groups, you will find her enthusiastically sharing her “inspirational stories of lives helped and transformed during crisis.” She and her husband, also an emergency responder, have 4 children and 4 grandchildren.
Inspiritus is grateful to have Sherry guiding our teams through our Dorian Response efforts, especially with more inclement weather, and hurricanes on the horizon.

Interesting read: Sherry was featured in Popular Mechanics by a journalist who volunteered with her after Hurricane Irma and Maria disaster response in the Virgin Islands. Warning: This article may inspire you to volunteer with Sherry in our next Inspiritus disaster response. Click here to read.

Inspiritus needs donations to help us respond to this latest disaster. Donate here and select disaster response to direct your funds specifically to our disaster.

If you’d like to volunteer with Inspiritus and our response team-fill out our short application here

Give Hope

Hurricane Dorian is being reported as one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes ever observed. It’s a catastrophic storm and expected to hit our coastal communities this week. Life-threatening storm surges could devastate homes still in desperate need of help. Homes like the one owned by Ethel, a disabled elderly woman living in Brunswick, GA. Inspiritus met Ethel last year, when our long-term disaster recovery teams were helping those in the area with home repairs. Ethel is an elderly, domestic violence survivor who was thrilled to move into her own home back in 2017.

“It was like God gave me a gift I was praying for...it was heaven,” says Ethel.

Unfortunately, Hurricane Irma descended upon her home and destroyed her roof. As a result, she was forced to live outside on to her porch. “I’ve been without water for almost a year. I was drinking off the roof with buckets on the side to take a bath and wash my dishes...” My lights got cut off too, and I knew I couldn’t afford to pay it, so I took that barrel there and that wood and chopped it up, and I cooked my food. I did it in order to survive.” says Ethel

Following Hurricane Irma, Ethel’s home quickly became infected with mold and mildew. Poor living-conditions made her sick with pneumonia, as well as, another mold-related lung infection.

“I’m not able to work, I can’t even go to the doctor. I got really sick, between the mildew in this house and the drinking the water I got...I had another bucket, a tin tub, to get water to drink, I know that made me sick, too, but I had to live. That was my life. I’m living the best way I can. God help me.” says Ethel.

Inspiritus repaired Ethel’s roof, but there’s still so much more to be done to make her home liveable. "If it wasn’t for Inspiritus, I would still be in this situation. ” says Ethel.

Ethel’s home may not be able to withstand more damage from another hurricane. Brunswick is located on a harbor of the Atlantic Ocean, approximately 40 mi (60 km) north of Florida and 80 mi (130 km) south of South Carolina. This makes it right in Hurricane Dorian’s projected path. As of Labor Day, mandatory evacuations were put into effect for Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas.


Inspiritus needs donations to help us respond to this latest disaster. Donate here to Inspiritus’ disaster recovery work today to provide support and give hope to these vulnerable communities desperately in need of our help. Select disaster response to direct your funds specifically to our disaster.

Our prayers are with Ethel and everyone in the path of Hurricane Dorian.

URGENT: Advocacy Alert for Refugee Services

LSG provides a wide variety of direct services to both newly arrived and established refugee clients, supported by federal funding administered through Georgia's Department of Human Services (DHS). With this funding LSG specifically provides employment training and job placement as well as assistance in addressing medical concerns and home management support designed to help refugees achieve self-sufficiency as soon as possible.

The contract year for these services began on October 1. To our dismay, we have been informed by officials of Georgia's DHS that they are under no obligation to pay for any services related to these federally funded programs until the contracts are signed. This left us with no option but to suspend these services to our clients since we have no idea if or when the contracts will be signed.

Today, LSG laid off eight Refugee Services staff members and stopped employment training, job placement and social adjustment services to our refugee clients. The suspension, or possible loss, of this federal funding, already distributed and being held by the state, will be strongly felt not only by the refugee population but also by every Georgia resident.

The entire refugee services community hopes for prompt resolution of the barriers that stand between us and delivery of these critical services.  You can help relieve this situation by contacting DHS Commissioner Clyde Reese at 404-463-3390 or creese@dhr.state.ga.us and Governor Nathan Deal at 404-656-1776 or click here. Ask them to sign the refugee services contracts and release the funding held by the state to provide these vital services to the refugee population. For suggestions on how to communicate your concerns, please click here.  And please forward this information to your network so that we can demonstrate that this issue has broad support from our community: friends, family, coworkers, congregation members, etc. Thank you for your support during this critical time.

 

Once you have contacted Governor Deal or Commissioner Reese, please let us know what response you receive, or if you have additional questions, by contacting J.D. McCrary, director of Refugee Services, at jmccrary@lsga.org or 678-686-9643.