LSG Awarded Grant for A+ Parents in Savannah!

mom daughterThe Georgia Governor's Office for Children and Families recently awarded Lutheran Services of Georgia a generous grant to prevent child abuse and neglect. Thanks to this grant, LSG will expand its parenting curriculum offered to parents participating in Savannah's A+ Parents program. A+ Parents is one program component of LSG's Family Intervention Services. According to the Administration of Children and Families Child Maltreatment 2012 report, 77 children died as a result of child abuse in Georgia and 1,640 children died due to child maltreatment nationwide. LSG's A+ Parents program aims to provide parent education, support, and parent training for families to reduce the risk of child abuse and neglect.

LSG will implement the Triple P - Positive Parenting Program in the Savannah area. Currently used in 25 countries, Triple P gives parents simple and practical strategies to help them confidently manage their children's behavior, prevent problems developing, and build strong, healthy family relationships. LSG will adopt a Level 3 Triple P curriculum to provide moderate direct intervention for parents of children with mild to moderate behavioral difficulties. This curriculum will enhance the level of LSG's services provided to families with older children in need of addressing specific behavioral issues. This service will target parents with children ages 11 to 16.

Primary services will be offered in Bryan County, with secondary service areas in Chatham, Effingham, and Liberty counties. A substantial number of families in this area with children ages 6 through 16 are experiencing crisis due to poverty, unemployment, inadequate housing, teen pregnancy, disabilities, substance abuse, commercial sexual exploitation of children, and more. Through the Triple P curriculum, LSG will serve 50 families, 80% of which are expected to be single mothers. The other 20% would be single fathers, two parent households, or relative/fictive kin caregivers.

LSG's Family Intervention Services, including the A+ Parents Program, strengthens families and reduces the risk of maltreatment of children. FIS also enhances the capacity of families and caregivers to provide for their children's needs. Click here to learn more about Family Intervention Services and the A+ Parents Program.

 

The Case of the Al Khazraji Family

Al Khazraji Family

 

By Deidre Harrison, Program Manager of Refugee Services in Savannah

Can a case file truly tell you the story of a life? Last year, Lutheran Services of Georgia prepared to receive a family of three that was living in Lebanon after fleeing their home country of Iraq. Although the story found in their case file, rife with violence and war, resembled the stories of many LSG clients, the Al Khazraji family was unique. The family’s employment history included a detailed account of the artistic and professional skills that both Sarmad and his wife Nemat acquired overseas. While living in Iraq, Sarmad studied film and theatre and Nemat earned a degree in fashion design. Sarmad directed plays and brought international scripts to his beloved theatre in Baghdad. During the Iraq wars, he received awards for short documentaries highlighting the effects of war on civilians. Sarmad approached his career with an open mind and a desire to welcome strangers from different countries.

In August 2013, LSG resettled Sarmad, Nemat, and their 8-year-old son Nadim in Savannah. At the time, the Iraqi community was still budding and many families found social adjustment very challenging. Yet Sarmad’s enthusiasm to help others and build friendships with local residents made him a role model to other Iraqi clients. With special consideration by LSG staff, the Al Khazraji family agreed to become the first refugee family resettled on Wilmington Island, a small community that had amenities but no refugee community. Both the agency and the Al Khazraji family took a risk that produced exemplary results, showcasing the power of community integration. Nadim excelled at May Howard Elementary School in his first three months and quickly made friends within and outside of the ESOL program. Sarmad befriended local artists at Savannah’s famous City Market. Within three months of arrival, Sarmad and Nemat both accepted jobs at Kroger where they work rotating shifts to mitigate childcare.

After their resettlement, the Al Khazraji family overcame challenges that many refugee families encounter. They learned to read and write in English by attending Savannah Technical College’s ESL classes and practicing with their son. They overcame the Savannah heat and sand gnats by learning to use sunscreen and bug spray. Most importantly, Sarmad and Nemat invested their personal time to help other refugees learn how to adapt to their new lives. In 2014, Sarmad and his wife have already assisted LSG staff with public transportation orientations and provided social support to new families resettled on Wilmington Island.

Drawing on his passion for art and film, Sarmad hopes to film a documentary about how refugees’ lives are positively transformed. He hopes that his talents can be used to communicate the shared hope of many people. Clearly, the case of the Al Khazraji family has yet to be closed.

Support LSG at the 7th Annual Ballroom Extravaganza!

Carolyn (in the orange dress) and Blair (in white T-shirt) are learning their Salsa moves with instructor Jimmy Rumba! In five weeks, they will compete against other nonprofit leaders at Savannah’s 7th Annual Ballroom Extravaganza to raise funds for LSG. Here are ways you can join them in supporting LSG:

1) Visit Carolyn and Blair’s Crowdrise page today to make a donation. Donations received on this site will go towards the votes for Carolyn and Blair during their dance routine on the evening of the event and other incidents. Ballroom dancing is not only competitive but expensive.

2) Write a check in the amount of your choice to Lutheran Services of Georgia. Mail it to: LSG, 100 Edgewood Ave., Suite 1800, Atlanta, GA 30303 or hand deliver it to Terri Medina (Atlanta office), Deidre Harrison (Savannah office), or Linda Larson (Savannah office). Don’t forget to include “Ballroom Extravaganza” in the note section.

3) Purchase a ticket (or more!) to attend the event on August 2, 2014. Tickets are $100 per person or $1,000 for a table of ten. LSG will receive 50% of all ticket sales purchased to support us. Seats are limited and tickets will sell quickly, so please purchase yours as soon as possible.

4) Sponsor the event! 100% of sponsorship dollars will do directly to LSG. Please include in the note section of your check or online that the sponsorship is for Lutheran Services of Georgia.

5) Help with our Silent Auction! Do you have a great item or a themed basket you can donate to LSG for the silent auction? All money received from the silent auction is donated back to LSG at 100%

6). If you attend the event on August 2, 2014, you have the opportunity to “vote” for Blair and Carolyn after their dance routine is completed. All donations received as votes are given to LSG at 100%.

Please share this link with your family, friends, and other contacts. LSG needs support from all our friends!

By supporting this event, you are helping LSG raise money for its much needed programs and services. For questions regarding the Ballroom Extravaganza, please contact Terri Medina (tmedina@lsga.org), Deidre Harrison (dharrison@lsga.org), or Linda Larson (llarson@lsga.org).

Thank you for supporting LSG!

Savannah Celebrates a Great Start to the New Year!

Staff, clients, and volunteers at Lutheran Services of Georgia's Savannah office had a great start to 2014! In January, we celebrated the birth of Elisabeth Deidre Sang, Savannah Refugee and Immigration Services's first citizen baby. Elisabeth is the newest member of the Sang family, a refugee family resettled in June 2013.The Rock of Ages Clothing Closet, Candler Hospital, Bible Baptist Church, and Eden Village all graciously provided in-kind donations to assist with clothing and furnishing Elisabeth's nursery. Elisabeth's four siblings--Ngai, Nam, Johnatan, and Van Tui--welcomed her into the world with love and excitement.

In February, LSG's Savannah office recruited new staff members and volunteers that will support our refugee resettlement and employment placement services. Sarmad Hameed, previously the Administrative Assistant for LSG's Atlanta office, accepted a promotion to become the full-time Reception & Placement (R&P) Case Manager. Sarmad is bilingual in Arabic and English and has already made great strides in building relationships in the community. Max Youngblood is excited to serve as the new Employment Specialist and Morgan Francisco, our new Logistics Coordinator, is ready to respond to all donation inquiries.

Dedicated volunteers and interns have joined LSG staff in helping clients of all backgrounds and ages on the journey to self-sufficiency. Felix Montanez, an attorney for Georgia Legal Services, is a Savannah native and bilingual in Spanish and English. Felix generously volunteered over 40 hours of his time in January and February, assisting with case file management and creating a weekend ESL class at the Savannah State Library. Anine Picard, a retired county school administrator, provided more than 60 hours in February, transporting clients to medical appointments and advocating for refugees in the community. Anine felt called to volunteer with LSG because she was once a new immigrant. After leaving her native Norway, Anine needed to learn how to communicate and adapt to American culture, and she wants to help other newcomers do the same.

Thanks to new staff, volunteers, and Elisabeth's birth, January and February were exciting months for LSG's Savannah office. We can't wait to see what the rest of the year holds!

 

Angel Tree 2013 Highlight: A Very Merry Christmas in Savannah!

Children served by the Savannah Specialized Foster Care, Adoptions, and Family Intervention Services, along with participants in the FACES program, had a very merry Christmas this year! Thanks to the generosity of numerous donors, our clients received an outpouring of gifts, all distributed by Santa!

On Saturday, December 14, Lutheran Services of Georgia held a party for the children in the social hall of host church Trinity Lutheran. Southside Fire Department brought Santa in an ambulance (It was raining - no open sleigh!) and delivered personalized gifts to every foster care provider and every child in each home. Everyone -- about 80 people plus staff -- enjoyed a delicious meal, served by LSG staff members.

The FACES party was held at the Old Times Country Buffet, and Santa, aka Donald Gruver, made an appearance to hand out gaily wrapped gifts.  Then it was “all you can eat.”  Everyone left happy.

Many groups and individuals within those groups selected names and purchased and wrapped each gift.  These groups included:

  • Asbury Methodist Bible Study Group
  • Groves High School Student Council
  • Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Springfield
  • Messiah Lutheran Church
  • Will Black, The Meridian Foundation
  • Publix Supermarket
  • Redeemer Lutheran Church
  • Savannah Pan-Hellenic Council
  • SouthCoast Medical Administrative Office
  • St. James Catholic School
  • St. Paul’s Lutheran Church
  • St. Paul’s Lutheran Church WELCA
  • St Paul’s Lutheran Preschool
  • Trinity Lutheran Church

Lutheran Services of Georgia is truly blessed to have such wonderful supporters throughout the area.  Thanks to the generosity of so many, LSG is able to continue to bring hope, healing and strength to people in need.

 

Literacy and a New Life

When Ali Majmaie flipped through the pages of a book, instead of well-crafted stories or informative text, he saw only mysterious shapes he couldn’t interpret. In his home country of Iraq, Ali established a career in welding and mechanics, working with his hands to support himself, his wife, and their four children.  Yet not long after Ali and his family arrived in the U.S. as refugees, Lutheran Services of Georgia discovered that Ali was unable to read or write in his native language.

Nevertheless, Ali remained confident in his ability to find a community, secure employment, and become self-sufficient in his new country. Today, Ali and his family are active members of the Islamic Center of Savannah, a community center that serves Savannah’s growing Muslim population. Together, they enthusiastically welcome incoming Burmese and Iraqi families to the neighborhood. Sahira, Ali’s wife, attends English training at Savannah Technical Campus, an important step towards her dream of becoming a teacher. She also aspires to learn American cooking styles for use in her kitchen. Ali and Sahira’s four children attend a local public school, where they have excelled in their classes.

Through one-on-one English tutoring, Ali is becoming literate for the first time! He has made great progress with both speaking and writing, and is slowly unraveling the mysteries of the written word. Thanks to his determination and newly acquired literacy skills, Ali recently accepted a full-time position with Whole Foods. His vibrant spirit and positive attitude make him a great team player.  Now, he can continue to improve his English while supporting his family. Ali's long journey from Iraq has finally led him to literacy and a new life for his family.

Back to School in Savannah!

September is here, and the late summer air is filled with laughter, pattering feet, ringing bells, and the honks of morning traffic—the sounds of children going back to school. Over the summer, Lutheran Services of Georgia welcomed nine refugee children and teens from Iraq and Burma to their new homes in Savannah. With school just around the corner, LSG staff and volunteers scurried to help parents find school supplies and uniforms so their children could start the year in style!

The new school year holds challenges for every child—meeting teachers, tackling new subjects, keeping up with homework, and making friends. Yet many refugee children face additional challenges. To succeed in their new schools, they must learn English, adjust to a new culture, and navigate an educational system that may be very different from what they experienced in their home countries. Without help from a supportive community, refugee children can feel lonely, anxious, and overwhelmed.

Luckily, these nine children have support from their teachers, counselors, and LSG staff and volunteers. At May Howard Elementary school, teachers excitedly welcomed their new students and even helped the younger kids learn how to ride the school bus! Teachers and counselors at Groves High School showed the three high school students around the school’s large campus and are working diligently to help them learn English and state-tested curriculum. LSG thanks all who have reached out to and supported these children as they go back to school!

LSG Welcomes Refugee Family from Iraq to Savannah!

On June 6, the Savannah office welcomed an Iraqi family of 6. The husband, Ali Majmaie, is very skilled with welding and manufacturing work. His wife, Sahira Saleem, aspires to be a teacher in the US. They have four children, three sons and one daughter. The oldest son wants to go to welding school, and the youngest children are very happy to live in Savannah and play at the many public parks. Upon their arrival in the US, the family made new friends with Savannah residents at the Savannah Islamic Center, enrolled into English classes at Savannah Tech, and received employment training at the LSG office.

Summer Reading

Beauty and the Beast, Rapunzel, the books of Dr. Seuss: these stories have animated the childhoods of kids across America for many years. On Wednesday, May 22, 50 elementary school students at Indian Creek Elementary School in Clarkston, Georgia became the newest readers of these classic tales—and they were ecstatic about it.

Thanks to a gift from the West Metro Chapter of Thrivent Financial for Lutherans and several Lutheran churches—Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Hiram, Grace Lutheran Church in Carrollton, Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Douglasville, and Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Douglasville—each student in LSG’s After School Academic/Arts Program (ASAP) received a book to read this summer. During ASAP, children from refugee families and at-risk youth stay at school in the afternoon to complete their homework, go on field trips, and participate in other fun activities, including book clubs. Having practiced reading books in English throughout the year, they will be more than ready to embark on their summer reading adventure, whether it be There’s A Wocket in my Pocket! or any of the other children’s stories they received on Wednesday!

When LSG staff members arrived in the Media Center of Indian Creek Elementary School pulling a cart with boxes of books on it, a hush fell over the students seated at the tables. That silence was soon broken. Once the children received their books, they began flipping through the pages, chattering with their neighbors. Clutching a book to her chest, one girl declared that she was never going to let it go. Another boy stood up and, with the ingenuousness of a six-year-old, told the LSG staff members, “Thank you for bringing something to us. We love you.”

The real thanks goes to the West Metro Chapter of Thrivent Financial for Lutherans and the Lutheran churches that provided the books. Thank you for giving these children something to read this summer and for filling them with such excitement and joy. We appreciate your contributions!

At The Ballgame

Sitting in the bleachers with a bright sun overhead, munching on peanuts, listening to an umpire barking behind home plate: this setting is familiar and precious for many of us. Baseball is, after all, “America’s Pastime.” Yet for others, watching baseball is an odd activity: it can be difficult to understand the bizarre movements and confusing rules, not to mention the peculiar snacks like hot dogs and boiled peanuts that are served there.

For Tun, That, Zin Ko, and Mu, four Burmese refugees who recently came to Savannah as refugees, baseball was an introduction to American culture. On a Thursday afternoon in May, Allison and Jim Ward, two dedicated LSG supporters, treated these four Burmese refugees to a Sand Gnats ballgame. Allison and Jim explained to them how to score runs, as well as what the strikes, balls, and outs on the scoreboard meant. They also bought some nachos and boiled peanuts for the newcomers to try. Although a little hesitant about the food, the four guests tried the nachos and peanuts and enjoyed watching the game.

LSG thanks Allison and Jim for the hospitality that they showed to the four Burmese men and women. Tun, That, Zin Ko, and Mu appreciated that people wanted to take them to a sports game and teach them about American culture. You, too, can help us welcome refugees by taking them to a community event or spending time with them in other ways. If you would like to join us in welcome, please contact Deidre Harrison (dharrison@lsga.org) in Savannah or Melanie Johnson (mjohnson@lsga.org) in Atlanta.