Refugee Program at Atonement
Throughout our history, Atonement parishioners have actively supported refugees.
More recently, we partnered with RefugeeOne, which is the umbrella resettlement organization over Episcopal Migration Ministries, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, and other small groups that were overwhelmed with the influx of refugees from Bosnia and other places in the early 90’s. It is a major resettlement organization that has helped more than 15,000 refugees establish new lives in Chicago.
Through this partnership, we provided mentoring and tutoring to a family that recently arrived in the US from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and had spent seventeen years in a refugee camp in Rwanda before coming to Chicago. RefugeeOne recognized that we had so many volunteers that they asked us to take on a second family, also from the DRC. Every week for many months, each family received two visits from two different groups of volunteers who helped them learn English and navigate their new world. Whether it was something as simple as how to make the shower work, making sure they had the right clothing to live in Chicago’s seasons, going to doctor and dental appointments, or celebrating a birthday, our volunteers were consistently there.
During this past year, we welcomed a third refugee family into our Atonement community. This refugee family was seeking asylum in the United States and found their way to our doorstep. They had endured tragedy and violence in their native country. They needed help. Atonement and its many friends, responded—making material contributions of money, household goods, clothing, food, and much more; providing insights and referrals to connect them (often in person) to legal, medical, educational, counseling, and community resources; and reaching out in friendship and encouragement and welcoming them into the life of our Church. After being part of our family, they made the difficult decision to move to Canada where their opportunity for asylum was much stronger than in the United States. We helped them move to Canada and have supported them as they settle into their new homeland and navigate through their asylum process.