Welcome Home, Danielle and Darien!

children-huggingAfter moving from foster home to foster home, Danielle and Darien finally settled in with a stable foster home. Two years later, now 5-year-old Danielle and brother 3-year-old Darien finally found a permanent home.

On Saturday, July 3, 2015, the two children were welcomed home with a party. Their foster mother and foster sister drove them almost fours hours to start their lives. Their DFCS case manager also traveled several hours to celebrate.

As soon as the children arrived, their new mom, dad, big brother, and pet bird greeted them warmly. The house was decorated with banners, streamers, and life-sized balloons of Spiderman and Elsa, from Disney's Frozen. Danielle and Darien couldn't stop smiling as they showed off their bedrooms and their playroom, which already had their names on the walls in giant glitter letters.

Everyone ate a huge brunch and listened as the foster mom and foster sister told funny stories about the kids. Even though the foster family was sad to see the children go, they were thrilled that Danielle and Darien had found the perfect forever family.

After brunch, the adoptive family met with LSG and DFCS case managers to complete the necessary paperwork while the children played with their new brother and their foster sister. The foster mother took photos of the new parents as they signed all of the forms to officially start their family. Once that was finished, everyone ate again and watched the kids laugh and play and make themselves at home. Standing there, it was hard to believe that this hadn't always been home to Danielle and Darien.

LSG thanks the foster family and adoptive family for helping welcome Danielle and Darien into their permanent home.

Meet the RIS Summer Interns - Part 2

Each summer, Lutheran Services of Georgia’s Refugee and Immigration Services department takes on several interns. We’re excited to introduce five of our summer interns: Kory Baggarley, Jalisa Davis, Kate Faulk, and Jenny Rose. Click here to read part 1.

Kory Baggarley

kory

About Kory: Kory is from Savannah, Georgia and is interning at the LSG Savannah office. He's a senior studying Political Science at Armstrong Atlantic State University. Two years ago, he completed a Bachelor of Arts in Music. Kory loves to travel, explore nature, and study global current events. He worked as a music teacher in Dubai for a year and was able to explore many of the Gulf countries while he was there.

Kory's Hopes for the Summer: "I chose to intern with LSG because they are a unique organization in our state that provides resettlement aid for refugees who needed to flee their own countries. I felt this would be a tremendous opportunity for me to learn hands-on about many of the conflicts happening in the world along with their impact on human lives. At the same time, I hope to be able to help individuals and families settle in Georgia and start a healthy and happy life here in the U.S."

Jalisa Davis

Jalisa Davis

About Jalisa: Jalisa is originally from Slidell, Louisiana. She currently attends Georgia State University. Jalisa is in her junior year and studying Public Policy with a concentration in Non-profit Leadership and a minor in Spanish. Jalisa's hobbies include arts and crafts, exploring, learning new things, and watching movies.

Jalisa's Hopes for the Summer: "I decided to intern with LSG because I had a great experience volunteering. I wanted to become more involved in the resettlement process and the various ways LSG serves their clients. This summer, I hope to learn about the various cultures of our clients. I look forward to seeing our clients flourish in their new lives in America."

Katherine "Kate" Faulk

Kate Faulk

About Kate: Kate is from St. Simons Island, Georgia. She's a rising senior at Emory University pursuing a Linguistics major and a minor in German. Kate enjoys theater, music, travel, reading, and learning languages.

Kate's Hopes for the Summer: "I worked with Atlanta's refugee community last summer through Tapestri and enjoyed the experience. I am hoping at LSG to gain more experience in the resettlement process and to help facilitate the adjustment of refugees to their life here, as well as to learn about their cultures. I also hope to continue to gain a more global perspective."

Jenny Rose

Jenny Rose

About Jenny: Jenny is from Lilburn, Georgia and currently lives in Decatur. Jenny is working on her Master of Public Administration in Nonprofit Management at Georgia State University. She plans to graduate in the fall of 2016. She enjoys spending time with her husband, Joseph, and four-year-old twin boys, Cohen and Ephraim.

Jenny's Hopes for the Summer: "I really want to gain experience working in refugee services. It's something I have wanted to do for a long time but just never had an opportunity. I also hope to gain knowledge about the unique challenges facing LSG, along with what types of skills I need to have to effectively serve clients and be a successful manager in a nonprofit setting."

 Thank you, Kory, Jalisa, Kate, and Jenny for joining us in welcome this summer. To learn more about interning with Refugee and Immigration Services, contact Melanie Johnson at mjohnson@lsga.org

LSG Launches First-Ever LSG Kids Club

20150714_052319 On July 13, 2015, Lutheran Services of Georgia launched its first-ever season of LSG Kids Club! LSG Kids Club is a summer program that aims to promote healing, adjustment, and confidence-building for recently resettled refugee kids who have experienced trauma. The program provides a fun and therapeutic introduction to life in Georgia, along with giving kids an opportunity to make new friends.

Eleven children and teens participated in the first week of the four-week LSG Kids Club. They came from four different countries--Somalia, Burma, Bhutan, and Nepal--and spoke three different languages--Somali, Nepalese, and Burmese. The kids enjoyed activities and field trips including yoga, pet therapy, skills-focused games and physical activities, and more.

LSG is partnering with an growing list of community members and organizations to make this program possible. Current partners include:

  • Raksha, Inc, a Georgia-based nonprofit organization for the South Asian community. Special thanks goes to Niekachi Nwogo for conducting therapy sessions throughout the program.
  • Funda Yilmaz, LPC and yoga instructor who specializes in trauma therapy and healing through Grounded Yoga
  • Atlanta Pet Partners, an organization that provided pet therapy
  • Living Grace Lutheran Church for hosting the program

LSG also thanks our volunteers and interpreters.

  • Padam Rai, Nepali Interpreter
  • Abdulrahman, Somali Interpeter
  • Kathryn Farmer, Dance Instructor
  • Pam Amy-Cupp, Camp Counselor
  • Annie Goodman, Camp Counselor
  • Matthew Johnson, Camp Counselor
  • Jessie Burnette, Camp Coordinator and LSG staff member
  • Melanie Johnson, LSG staff member and volunteer

LSG Kids Club is supported, in part, through a grant from the Lutheran Services for Children Endowment at the ELCA Foundation. For more photos from the Club, visit our Facebook page. To learn more about LSG Kids Club, contact Coordinator Jessie Burnette at jburnette@lsga.org or (706) 889-3348.

Refugee and Immigration Services Hosts Breakfast for Interpreters

breakfast Lutheran Services of Georgia's Refugee and Immigration Services department recently hosted a breakfast to show appreciation for our interpreters. LSG could not provide quality services to clients from all over the world without our skilled and knowledgeable interpreters.

Case managers, interns, and five of LSG's interpreters came together to enjoy breakfast and share tips on how to work better together. The interpreters included speakers of Burmese, Amharic, Tigrinya, Arabic, and Somali. RIS plans to host several interpreter breakfasts throughout the year.

LSG thanks all our interpreters for their hard work and commitment to welcoming refugees and immigrants.

Nur Abdi Attends Migrant & Refugee Leadership Academy in D.C.

20150617_133312 From June 16-18, LSG staff member and former refugee Nur Abdi traveled to Washington, D.C. to participant in the 2015 Migrant & Refugee Leadership Academy with Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS). The Migrant & Refugee Leadership Academy is a three-day leadership training and advocacy event for current and former refugees. Participants come from all over the country to build their advocacy skills and to visit legislators on Capitol Hill.  Below, Nur reflects on his experience........

Describe your experience at the Migrant & Refugee Leadership Academy. Which parts were most powerful for you and why?

Nur: My trip to Baltimore and DC to participate in this year's Migrant and Leadership Academy reminded me of the passion that was always within me to fight for refugee and immigrant rights. It built my confidence in telling my story and it showed me how much impact and difference I can make by sharing my experience. I started building a network of people that share those experiences and had the opportunity to speak to government representatives who have the power to make the changes for which we are fighting. The Academy also provided me with tools to take back to my community and to apply my advocacy efforts on the local level.

What did you learn about advocacy and refugees during the Academy?

Nur: During my advocacy, I simply told my story. I told how I was resettled in Clarkston, Georgia, through Lutheran Services of Georgia. How I immediately began using my language skills to interpret for other refugees and LSG staff during cultural orientation and the Match Grant program. How with the help of LSG staff I found my first job at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport within my first two months in the U.S. I told them how I was on food stamps and other benefits within a short period of time and how I have never been on food stamps since. I told my experience as a refugee and how it inspired me to seek out opportunities to continue serving refugee populations and how I recently became a Reception and Placement Case Manager at LSG. I shared with them that 80% of refugees resettled in Georgia are able to find work and become financially self-sufficient within 180 days after their arrival. I told them that refugees are an asset to this beautiful country.

How do you hope to use what you learned in D.C. to support your work with refugees in Georgia?

Nur: Clarkston, a small city northeast of Atlanta, Georgia, is the home of many refugees. Approximately 2,ooo refugees are resettled in Clarkston each year. As a member of the community and also R&P Case Manager I have a great connection with community leaders and we all have one common goal: to build welcoming communities by serving, empowering, and advocating for refugees and migrants. Being part of the Migrant and Refugee Leadership Academy, I have learned to expand my scope by advocating for refugees and migrants at a higher level.

LSG is excited to welcome Nur back and to see how he uses his advocacy skills to support refugees throughout Georgia. 

LSG Celebrates World Refugee Day with Breaking Bread and Building Bridges Potluck

bridge1  

On Sunday, June 14, Lutheran Services of Georgia celebrated World Refugee Day with the 2nd Annual Breaking Bread and Building Bridges Potluck Dinner at Rock of Ages Lutheran Church. Participants engaged in guided conversations around the table, listened to clips of refugee stories recorded by StoryCorps, and enjoyed a delicious meal.

This year, LSG introduced the Bridge Awards, intended to honor those who work to build bridges between people from many cultures. LSG congratulates the recipients of this year's Bridge Awards.

Refugee Storytellers: Refugees received Bridge Awards for sharing their stories with LSG through StoryCorps.

  • Jules Gakuru (Democratic Republic of Congo)
  • Gashore Nizeyimana (Democratic Republic of Congo)
  • Nebi Germay (Eritrea)
  • Muhyadin Kalib (Somalia)
  • Bal Dahal (Bhutan)

Volunteers: LSG also gave out Bridge Awards to exceptional volunteers.

  • Jenelle Holmes: Jenelle is a Emory/Candler School of Theology volunteer who served as a refugee family mentor and assistant in the Extended Cultural Orientation class. She lives with her family in Azealia Village, her church's transitional housing for refugee families.
  • Ed Aebischer: Ed  is the co-leader (with Mark Olson) of the Refugee Resettlement team at Lutheran Church of the Resurrection in Marietta which partnered with LSG to resettle two families in 2014. He is a regular Friends in Hope Visitor to immigrants in detention in Georgia and a Careers & Connections mentor.
  • Mark Olson: Mark is the co-leader (with Ed Aebischer) of the Refugee Resettlement team at Lutheran Church of the Resurrection in Marietta which partnered with LSG for the resettlement of two refugee families in 2014. He's exploring a new partnership between LSG and Rock of Ages Lutheran Church. He serves as an Employment Coach with refugee employment and a Careers & Connections mentor.
  • Carmelle Nitereka: Carmelle was LSG's Episcopal Service Corps volunteer in 2014-2015 working with the Match Grant early self-sufficiency program. She's a Friends in Hope visitor to immigrants in detention.
  • Pastor Randy Palm: Pr. Randy is the Pastor of Rock of Ages Lutheran Church, LSG's "home away from home" near Clarkston. Pr. Randy is a strong friend and ROA is a strong church partner for LSG--opening their doors to LSG and our refugee friends in so many ways. ROA houses the Refugee Clothing closet and allows LSG to host events large and small, including Breaking Bread and Building Bridges.

Melanie Johnson, LSG's Program Manager for Volunteers, Congregation, and Community Engagement commented, "The best thing about Breaking Bread and Building Bridges are the smiling faces of refugees and community friends as they share conversation around the table while new friendships are forged and an appreciation for cultural diversity is cultivated."

LSG thanks all our supporters, attendees, and clients who made this event a success. To see photos from the event, visit our Facebook page.

Ashley Advocates at the AILA National Day of Action

group - AILA  

By Ashley LaRiccia, Equal Justice Works Fellow , sponsored by McGuireWoods and Dupont, placed with Lutheran Services of Georgia

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Lutheran Services of Georgia.
On April 16, 2015, I traveled to Washington, DC for the American Immigration Lawyer Association’s (AILA) National Day of Action. As part of a team of over 300 immigration lawyers from across the United States, we made it our mission to remind Congress that America needs immigration reform. Our day started off with breakfast and a speech from Congresswoman Lofgren of California, an immigrant ally. We then broke off into our teams, and I along with eight other members of the Georgia/Alabama Chapter of AILA attended appointments with Georgia legislators and their staff.

Our message to the legislators was and continues to be that America needs a better immigration system. We stressed that immigration enforcement must reflect American values and should include protections for unaccompanied children and families seeking asylum. I was able to speak to the offices about the unique ways in which Lutheran Services of Georgia (LSG) serves immigrant and refugee families in their own congressional districts. Congressman John Lewis’s office was especially interested in issues affecting unaccompanied minors and the concerns raised by our AILA cohort about the low approval rate of asylum cases in the Atlanta Immigration Court.

During our lunch break we heard from a number of congressmen, congresswomen, and senators about their stances on immigration policy and law. A message emphasized in many of the legislators’ speeches was that America should not be detaining mothers and children seeking asylum and that such detention centers are in conflict with American values and basic human rights.

Later in the afternoon, my team met with the offices of Senator Isakson and Representative Price in order to emphasize the message that America needs immigration reform and an enforcement-only approach is not a solution. The other members of the AILA chapter met with the offices of Senator Perdue and Representatives Bishop, Austin Scott, David Scott, and Westmoreland.

If you would like to learn more about the details of AILA’s message to our Congressmen and Senators, please follow the link for an electronic version of this pamphlet that we left behind at all of our visits. http://www.aila.org/File/Related/15041400a.pdf.

 

 

Governor Deal Signs Social Work Month 2015 Proclamation

social work month

In honor of Social Work Month 2015, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed the following Social Work Month 2015 proclamation to recognize the importance of social workers throughout Georgia. 

Social Work Month 2015 Proclamation

'Social Work Paves the Way for Change'

WHEREAS, the primary mission of the Social Work profession (has been) to enhance well-being and help meet the basic needs of all people, especially the most vulnerable in society;

WHEREAS, Social Work Pioneers (have) helped lead America’s struggle for social justice and pave the way for positive social change and more than any other profession recognize that more must be done to address persistent social problems; hence, Social Workers are change agents who put the ideals of citizenship into action every day through major legislative, regulatory, and social policy victories.

WHEREAS, Social Workers support diverse families in every community, understanding that individuals and communities together can bring about group change; therefore, they utilize research and legislative advocacy skills to transform community needs into national priorities with the goal of eliminating discrimination of any kind that limits human potential;

WHEREAS, Social Workers help people in every stage of life function better in their environments; they know from experience that poverty and trauma can create lifelong social and economic disadvantages; therefore, they work to improve societal relationships by solving personal and family problems; they also work to improve the rights of individuals regardless of their race, economic status, gender, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation.

WHEREAS, Social Workers help enhance the well-being and help meet the basic needs of all people; They strive to ensure that children have the right to safe environments and quality education; that older adults have access to care-giving and dignity, veterans and their families have community support to ensure successful transitions after service, and that mental health treatment and health care services are available to millions of lives

WHEREAS, research shows that all people no matter their circumstance, at some time in their lives, may need the expertise of skilled social worker; Social Workers celebrate the courage, hope and strength of the human spirit throughout their careers.

NOW THEREFORE, in recognition of the numerous contributions made by America's more than 600,000 Social Workers, I NATHAN DEAL, proclaim the month of March 2015 as National Social Work Month and call upon all citizens to join with the National Association of Social Workers in celebration and support of the Social Work profession.

*****

Visit the National Association of Social Workers website for more information about Social Work Month 2015.

ASAP Students Dress Up For Prom!

 

On March 22, 15 girls from LSG's Afterschool Academic/Arts Program (ASAP) at Clarkston High School found their dream prom dresses during Athena's Warehouse's Clarkston Dress Day! Athena's Warehouse partners with programs like ASAP to educate, inspire, and empower teen girls. In exchange for three hours of community service, Athena's Warehouse gives teenage girls the opportunity to choose a good-quality prom dress for free.

ASAP students served their communities through volunteering at the MLK Lutheran Day of Service, working with Indian Creek Elementary Students, assisting with LSG clerical work, and more. Four students from other Clarkston schools joined the 15 ASAP students for Dress Day. Together, the girls tried on dresses, modeled for each other, and made new friends. Thank you, Athena's Warehouse, for helping us give our girls a very special prom.

To learn more about Athena's Warehouse, click here. To see photos from Dress Day, visit our Facebook page.

ASAP Students Transform Conflict!

For Clarkston High School students in Lutheran Services of Georgia’s Conflict Transformation workshops, learning is much more than listening to lectures or taking notes. One Monday afternoon, students demonstrated that learning is a creative activity. Accompanied by giggles and an acoustic guitar, they sang powerful words they had written about justice: “People, can’t you see that justice is our nature? Let us all be brothers and sisters.” Even as they enjoyed creating together, they learned about justice, nonviolence, and conflict transformation.

After an incident at Clarkston High School escalated, LSG and CHS wanted to equip students to better respond to conflict. Carolyn Blair, LSG’s 21st Century Community Learning Coordinator, and Erin Mills, the ASAP Parent Coordinator, decided to incorporate conflict resolution into LSG’s Afterschool Academic/Arts Program (ASAP) curriculum.

They reached out to local community members Erin Davenport, Paul Reeser, and Ike Reeser to help coordinate the program. Erin and Paul live in a small Christian community in Clarkston that is devoted to nonviolence and working for peace in their community. Together with their community, they run Peace Playground, a summer program that gives elementary school-aged kids in their neighborhood to opportunity to explore nonviolence. Paul, a youth pastor in Clarkston, holds a BA in Theology and Ministry from Lipscomb University and has a deep passion for nonviolence. Ike Reeser, a minister at Northlake Church of Christ, holds a Master’s Degree in Conflict Resolution and has over 25 years of experience working with youth. Motivated by their love of the Clarkston community, Erin, Paul, and Ike agreed to help.

Now, each Monday afternoon, ASAP students participate in interactive Conflict Transformation workshops. Conflict Transformation workshops provide a safe, supportive environment for students to gain a deeper understanding of conflict. Through a diverse curriculum that includes conflict style surveys, roleplaying, storytelling, music, drama, object lessons, and group reflections, students develop their abilities to respond to conflict in healthy, effective ways.The workshops complement ASAP’s efforts to prepare students to succeed inside and outside of the classroom.

According to Paul Reeser, “Almost everyone deals with conflict on a regular basis. Learning healthy ways of processing conflict prepares young people to enjoy better relationships with the people in their community.” Paul hopes that these workshops will deepen relationships between students and empower them to become peaceful members of their communities. “Our community struggles with youth violence,” he said. “We see a real need to call our young people to join us in a more peaceful way. We want to open our community to the great potential that is within us when we find peaceful ways of transforming the conflicts we face.”

For more information on LSG’s Afterschool Academic/Arts Program, click here. You can also support ASAP at Clarkston High School, Indian Creek Elementary School, or Tobie Grant Manor by purchasing and donating an item from ASAP’s Amazon wishlist.

 

 

Raise Your Voice for Refugees at the New Americans Celebration!

We are just two short days away from the New Americans Celebration at the Georgia Capitol! We are very excited at the prospect of meeting with our elected officials to share the amazing contributions refugees make to our state.

Visiting the Capitol to talk to your elected officials can be quite daunting if you have never experienced it before. But it can also be a lot of fun! You may not know your elected officials personally, and that's okay! It's very easy to get to know your elected officials, especially on the local level. All you need to do is reach out and contact them.

Some of you may be thinking, "What? Contact them? I'm not important. They'll never listen to me!"

Actually, yes they will. Because you are a constituent. If you are registered to vote, and if you voted for your representatives, then you hired them. If you didn't vote for them, they'd like you to vote for them to get rehired at the next elected. Your elected officials work for you, and they will listen to you.

Here are some steps to help you prepare for this week's New Americans Celebration:

1) Click here to register for the New Americans Celebration at the Capitol.

2) If you don't know your Georgia Senator or Representative, visit Project Vote Smart. Enter your full address to get all the information you need. The organizers of New Americans Day will also look up this information for you, but Vote Smart is a great tool to give you a head start.

3) After you locate the names of your State Representative and State Senator, go to www.legis.ga.gov to get their official contact information and office location.

4) Send them an email or give their office a call. This should be done today or Tuesday. Introduce yourself as a constituent and tell them that you'll be at the Capitol on Wednesday for the New Americans Breakfast. Inform them that they should receive a hard-copy invitation on Tuesday. The Breakfast will begin at 8 a.m. for the legislators and is in room 216 of the Capitol. Let them know that you would like to meet them sometime that morning if they are available. If you're comfortable, you can continue your email or phone call by sharing why you are coming and why you personally are passionate about New Americans and Refugee Resettlement.

If you're unsure what to say, here's a sample email message that you can use:

"Dear [Senator or Representative's Name],

My name is [Insert Name] and I am a constituent in [insert city]. I am emailing you to let you know that I will be at the Capitol this Wednesday, February 5th in the morning. I'll be attending the New Americans Celebration and Breakfast with Lutheran Services of Georgia and the Coalition of Refugee Services Agencies. You should receive a hard-copy invitation to the breakfast on Tuesday, February 4th. The Breakfast is for all legislators and will be held in room 216 of the Capitol beginning at 8 a.m. I will be participating in this event all morning and I would love the opportunity to meet with you. I believe that refugees and new Americans are an asset to our state and contribute many great things to our communities.

Thank you for your time, and I hope to meet you on Wednesday.

[Your Name]"

These steps should only take 10-15 minutes to complete and are a great way to get prepared for Wednesday. Our goal is to reach as many of Georgia's legislators as possible, and we can't do it without the help of concerned Georgia residents like you.

For more information and an agenda for the New Americans Celebration, click here.

See you on Wednesday!

-Emily Laney, Atlanta Program Manger for Refugee Services-

Support LSG on Georgia Gives Day!

This Wednesday, November 13, Lutheran Services of Georgia is joining nonprofit organizations across the state for Georgia Gives Day! The purpose of Georgia Gives Day is to bring our state together as one community, to raise as much money and awareness as possible for Georgia nonprofits within a 24-hour, flash mob of giving on the website www.GAgivesday.org. GAgivesday.org makes donating easy by organizing hundreds of nonprofits across the state into one website, providing the information people need to select a cause, and enabling online donations by credit card or e-check. This year, LSG aims to raise $5,000 that will help us serve individuals and families throughout Georgia! To give to LSG, simply click here to visit our online profile and make a donation via credit card or e-check. Every penny counts!

You can also help us reach our goal by spreading the word! Share the link to our profile with your family, friends, and community members. You can also become an LSG "friendraiser" and run your own fundraising campaign on behalf of LSG. Visit our profile and click "Become a Fundraiser" to get started.

LSG is grateful to our dedicated volunteers, donors, and supporters. Our mission is to to promote services that enhance the stability, wellness, health, and safety of individuals and families in Georgia....but we can't do it without you! Help us bring restored hope, transformed lives, and healthy tomorrows to the people we serve.

Berguissa Prepares for Her Future with ASAP

At Clarkston High School, the final bell rings, but Berguissa Barry’s day at school isn’t over. Each afternoon, she joins other students for ASAP, Lutheran Services of Georgia’s After-School Academic/Arts Program. There, Berguissa prepares for her future: studying to improve her GPA, practicing for the SAT, and writing college scholarship and admissions essays. When she was only five years old, Berguissa fled her home country of Mauritania, West Africa, along with her mother and brother. On October 31, 2004, the family arrived in the U.S. as refugees, joining Berguissa’s father who had left Mauritania 19 years earlier. Berguissa and her family later moved to Clarkston so she could attend Clarkston High School. A talented and passionate student, Berguissa threw herself into her schoolwork and extracurricular activities. She played soccer, explored the culinary arts, volunteered for school fundraisers, and ran track. English is not her second language, but her third language; she also speaks French and Fula, a language native to West Africa.

Currently a high school senior, Berguissa dreams of attending Oglethorpe University, Georgia State University, or Spelman College to study medicine or engineering. Her experience with ASAP has been overwhelmingly positive. She told LSG, “Since I started this program, I gained a lot of experience, learned a lot about my colleges, and they have been helping me with everything that I need. I definitely encourage that they keep this program going because it would help a lot of students and we actually have fun here doing different activities that interest students in an educational way.” Berguissa is grateful to all her teachers and only wishes the program had started earlier. She plans to continue attending ASAP until the end of her time at Clarkston High School. With dedication, persistence, and help from ASAP, Berguissa is working hard to achieve her dreams.

Now in its third year, ASAP is held at three locations throughout Clarkston—Clarkston High School, Indian Creek Elementary School, and the Tobie Grant Manor. At ASAP, professional teachers and volunteers tutor refugee and at-risk students of all ages. The program also provides opportunities for students to participate in artistic activities, such as writing in journals, discussing literature together, and taking music and arts classes. Teachers, parents, and students have all expressed delight at the program’s success in encouraging creativity, creating a safe space during afterschool hours, and helping students perform better in the classroom.

If you’d like to support students like Berguissa, consider purchasing and donating an item from ASAP’s Amazon wishlist. The wishlist includes school supplies, materials for arts and crafts, curriculum resources, snacks, and more. Click here to start bringing restored hope, transformed lives, and healthy tomorrows to refugee and at-risk children in Clarkston!

Meet the new staff members in Refugee Services!

Heather Romero will serve as the Employment Specialist for the Savannah Refugee Services Sub-Office. Prior to joining LSG, she has experience working for faith based organizations in Georgia and overseas in South Sudan. She is skilled with assisting victims of trauma, refugee populations, and providing social support services to improve self-sufficiency. She earned her Bachelor’s in Human Services at Kennesaw State University with a focus on Social Work.

Gayle Cruz graduated from Kennesaw State University with a Bachelor’s in International Affairs with a concentration in Global Experience. During her last semester, she was an intern in the Refugee Services department of R&P. She also volunteered with Friends in Hope making visitations to detainees. She speaks Spanish fluently and has a background in banking. Gayle is passionate about helping refugees develop and become self-sufficient. Her passion in developing and helping those in need led her to work for LSG as an Employment Specialist.

Lindsay Futterman is a part-time Case Aide with the R&P program. Lindsay was born and raised in Atlanta. She has over six years experience in nonprofit, and most recently worked at the International Community School as Administrative Specialist, gaining much experience working with refugee families. She enjoys volunteering, cooking and bike riding.

Zakaria Abdulraek is a former refugee from Sudan. He was resettled by LSG in 2010, and began working for the Omni Hotel shortly after his arrival in Atlanta. He had been volunteering for LSG for several months and was recently hired as a part-time case aide for the R&P program. He is happy to be able to give back to the community through his work with LSG.

Hunger Walk Totals

Each year, several faith-based nonprofits partner with the Atlanta Community Food Bank to raise money for the Hunger Walk/Run. Among the five nonprofits that worked with the ACFB this year, LSG was the top fundraiser, gathering $75,333.21!

The real work, however, was done by the Lutheran churches in the Atlanta area. Through a variety of fundraising drives and appeals to their congregations, they raised the vast majority of LSG's Hunger Walk funds. Thank you to all of our churches who raised money for the Hunger Walk and to the members of the congregations for contributing to the event!

Some of these congregations went all out for the Hunger Walk. Here is a list of the top 10 fundraisers among the Lutheran churches that participate with LSG:

1.Trinity Lutheran Church, $11,740.71 2.Cross of Life Lutheran Church, $7,154.39 3.St. John's Lutheran Church, $5,970.89 4.Rivercliff Lutheran Church, $5,734.00 5.Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, $5,392.00 6.Grace Lutheran Church, Carrollton, $5,033.00 7.Christ the Lord Lutheran Church, $3,605.00 8.Epiphany Lutheran Church, Conyers, $2,851.00 9.Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, $2,616.00 10.Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Woodstock, $2,558.50

Congratulations to Trinity Lutheran Church and all the other top churches in this year's Hunger Walk fundraising challenge! Thanks for making the Hunger Walk an incredible success!

Cycling in Savannah

Zin Ko, a recently arrived Burmese refugee in Savannah, had been walking to his ESL classes because he did not have any other means of transportation. If he used public transportation from his apartment to his class, he would have to travel on several buses, since no bus would take him directly there. This trip would take him more than two hours to complete. He preferred to walk, which took him about an hour and a half. Although the walk was shorter than the ride, it cost him in other ways: the sun burned his skin, and he was tired by the time that he got to class. He did not know what to do about this problem.

On a recent morning in May, Zin Ko arrived at LSG’s office in Savannah for employment training as usual. However, Deidre Harrison, Program Manager for Refugee Services in Savannah, had a surprise for him that day. She told him to go out into the parking lot and look at her car. Resting against the side of her vehicle was a bicycle, donated to LSG by Virginia Huber, a member of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church and sister of LSG’s Linda Larson.

When Zin Ko saw the bike, he was ecstatic. He knew that his commute to class would be only 30 minutes now. In addition, he could explore the city with the other recently arrived Burmese family who already had bikes. LSG thanks Virginia for helping Zin Ko get to work faster and know the city better!

Playing for Hope at the Atlanta Golf Classic!

With the sun shining brightly and a brisk wind blowing through the course, around 60 golfers joined Lutheran Services of Georgia on Monday, May 13 for the 19th Annual Atlanta Golf Classic at Heritage Golf Links. Enjoying the beautiful weather, the golfers relished the opportunity to play the game that they love while benefiting people in need.

After the round of golf, the players gathered in the clubhouse to wait for the most important part of the afternoon: the awards. A team from Lutheran Church of the Resurrection finished in third place, and the top two teams came from Prince of Peace Lutheran Church. The second place team included John Timpe, LSG’s golf outing stalwart, along with Chris Henry, Doug Hollowell, and Bruce Kollin. The first place team comprised Joe Hensley, Robert Hutchinson, Mark Kupciewicz, and Joe Ruggles. Congratulations to the winners of the Atlanta Golf Classic, and thanks to the many golfers who joined us on a gorgeous day to help us serve people in need throughout Georgia!

Atlanta Golf Classic--last chance to sign up!

Now is your last chance to sign up for the 19th Annual Atlanta Golf Classic! Join us at Heritage Golf Links on Monday for a round of golf, hamburger/hot dog cook out, and silent auction. It's going to be a delightful spring day, warm and sunny. You get to practice your swing for the summer golfing season while helping people in need throughout Georgia--two great reasons to join us on Monday! Book your place for $110 by clicking here and putting "Atlanta Golf Classic" in the comments section. Please email Jeff (jbanks@lsga.org) or Lorraine (ldorough@lsga.org) for more information. We'll see you out there!

It's a Breeze!

In the fellowship hall of the Clarkston International Bible Church, 12 men and women gathered together, speaking different languages from around the world. Although they did not share a language, they did all have one thing in common: each was holding a MARTA Breeze card. With this card in hand, they marched out of the hallway, moving toward the bus stop nearby.

On Thursday, LSG’s Refugee Services hosted one of its Extended Cultural Orientation (ECO) classes. During this session, newly arrived refugees from Burma, Somalia, Iran, Iraq, Bhutan, and the Congo learned how to take the train from Clarkston to LSG’s office downtown. Because these men and women will take trains and buses to find jobs, attend English classes, and visit new friends, they were learning an important skill. Along the way, there were a few surprises for the many individuals who had never used public transportation to travel around a city: during a brief talk on pedestrian safety, some were astounded to learn that crossing the street without a signal might earn them a ticket! After having a snack and participating in a quick debrief at LSG’s office, they were on their way back to Clarkston, practicing the skills they learned in identifying East, West, North, and South signs at the station.

The ECO program comprises nine classes, each one imparting new skills and facts about life in the United States to refugee clients. Other sessions include lessons on healthcare in the U.S., home management, personal safety, and U.S. laws and expectations. By the end of the program, the newly arrived refugee men and women will be on their way to gaining the self-sufficiency and cultural competency that they need to thrive in their communities.

Gloria's Appeal

Gloria and her husband Tom first came to LSG to adopt a baby from overseas. When their prospects for adopting a child internationally became less likely, they were presented with the opportunity to adopt a sibling group of three from outside Atlanta. After becoming certified as foster parents through LSG’s Foster-to-Adopt program, Gloria and Tom began visiting their children in February 2008 and finalized their adoption in May 2009.

Gloria became more involved with LSG a few months after adopting her children. In November 2009, she was elected to LSG’s Board of Directors and began to serve a three-year term. In May 2010 she was elected Secretary and serves on the Executive Committee and the Governance Committee of the Board of Directors.

Recently, Gloria wrote an eloquent appeal in the newsletter of her employer, urging readers to support LSG’s Foster Care and Adoption programs, both of which she knows intimately. You can read her letter below.

This newsletter is focused on a different type of “recruiting.” As many of you know, we support foster and adoption programs through the non-profit Lutheran Services of Georgia. You too can help children in foster care find their “forever” families through the support of adoption.

LSG has been asked by the state of Georgia to help connect children in permanent foster care with parents from around the country. These children may be of minority heritage, mentally or physically challenged, over the age of eight, or members of a sibling group that needs to be adopted together; in other words, those considered to be difficult to place. Such children often stay in foster care until they “age out” unless identified by a Georgia family interested in adopting them. Potential adoptive families from other states have difficulty being considered for these children since there is not an easy mechanism for following up with these families and placing the children across state lines. Permanency for a child is LSG’s number one goal, and by expanding the pool of available families, they will help at least 20 families this year adopt the children who need them the most.

The funding for this special grant requires LSG to raise a 25% match through private donations, which comes to $7500. I know from my experience that adopting these special needs children is a life-changing event. Seeing our sibling group of three blossom into healthy, happy, well-rounded kids is a small piece of heaven on Earth. If you are interested in helping create new “forever” families like mine, please visit Lutheran Services of Georgia and click on the “Donate Now” button today.