Building Friendships in the Community
Last year was an incredible year of growth here in Kansas City. With some hard work, and lots of meetings, we are finally gaining some visibility in the non-profit community, and particularly the community that cares about immigrants and refugees. We’ve also added a couple of new team members and met new refugee friends.
One of the best connections we’ve made is through our contact at the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, Jessica Gall. After we met with her last year, she invited us to participate in the “Welcoming KC” commission to help Kansas City become an official “Welcoming USA” city. It is within all of these meetings (we are serving on the “connected communities” committee) that we have made lots of contacts with other non-profit organizations who help immigrants and refugees. Our list of community partners grows and grows with each meeting, and we are starting to visualize the landscape of the refugee helper community.
But while we have been thrilled to make our way into the world of NGOs supporting refugees, we continue to seek ways to support our local refugee friends as well. We brainstormed with a friend of ours who speaks Arabic about a way to help the local Arabic-speaking community of refugees who often feel isolated and alone. With her help, and the help of our awesome refugee friend, Rahaf, we created a group to help support Arabic-speaking refugees–in particular women. Our first meeting was at the end of November, and while only two refugee women attended, we were able to get some real feedback about the issues they face and how we can be of support. Their biggest concern? A safe space to practice English. And so we will continue to build this group as a place for our Arabic-speaking friends to feel safe and connected to their community here in Kansas City.
In December we were asked by the owner of Tirza Design to set up a pop-up booth in her store in a prime holiday shopping location called “The Plaza”. Tirza Design is “committed to the empowerment of women who have survived human trafficking, exploitation, and other forms of abuse.” (We found out about their mission and connection to refugees when Sommer randomly walked in and saw the TSOS book displayed.) At our pop-up booth in the store, we met an employee named Odeta who is a refugee herself and learned all about how she is connecting with her culture to make music and help tell other refugee stories. We feel so grateful for this connection and look forward to more collaboration with the owner and her store.
Our goal this year is to tell more stories, whether that’s through our blog or the social media account we manage (or both!). We’ve finally understood that stories about refugees are important, but so are the stories about the communities concerned with helping and supporting refugees. We met with the vice president of JVS, a local resettlement agency, who spoke of the hardships that resettlement agencies have been through the last 5 years: changes in administration, the pandemic, and the economy. Resettlement agencies are worn out and struggling to find resources, including housing, for new arrivals. It’s been tough and we would love to educate the community by telling their story.
As we build relationships in the community, our goal is to be able to help as many people as possible within our sphere of influence. Sometimes that looks like giving exposure to other refugee nonprofits in the community who are in need of volunteers and resources. Sometimes that looks like helping our refugee friend practice her English so she can pass her citizenship test. Both are stories that we can tell to help bring hope and humanity to our friends and fellow community members.
Find a way to volunteer and build relationships with a local non-profit that serves refugees. There are several in KC looking for help all the time.
Refugee Resettlement Agencies in KC:
Kansas City Non-Profits:
The Afghan Adjustment (AA) has been reintroduced in both the House (H.R.4627) and the Senate (S.2327) of the United States by a bipartisan group of legislators. We invite you to join us in honoring our promise to our Afghan allies by urging your representatives to pass the Afghan Adjustment!
We know there are stories in Kansas City that need to be told. So, we sat down and made a plan. We listed individuals, nonprofit organizations, and resettlement agencies that we have relationships with. Then we listed ways we could weave these stories together by topic: connected communities, housing, resettlement, etc. Our list grew and grew, and before we knew it we had a roadmap.
Just as citizens in Europe and the U.K. have heroically supported displaced Ukrainians by opening up their homes or securing other housing, assisting with school enrollments, employment needs, and language learning, Americans now have the opportunity via the Welcome.us Sponsor Circles program to directly help newly arrived Ukrainians. The United States has committed to welcoming 100,000 Ukrainians temporarily for a period of two-years and the ability to apply for employment authorization in the U.S. as long as they have a U.S.-based sponsor to petition for them.