LSTC, neighborhood partners welcome refugee families

HPRP volunteer Sara Trumm, Program Coordinator, A Center for Christian-Muslim Engagement for Peace and Justice, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, recounts the story of LSTC’s early involvement in the Hyde Park Refugee Project. The story (copied below) was published in LSTC Winter 2017 Epistle.

It was 18 months ago that staff, faculty and students from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago and other nearby congregations and institutions began exploring how to co-sponsor a refugee family in Hyde Park. Just before Christmas, the first family arrived. The second family arrived in mid-February. RefugeeOne, the largest resettlement agency in Chicago, worked with LSTC and partners Augustana Lutheran, 57th St Meeting of Friends, Hyde Park Union Church, University of Chicago Lab School, and more recently Ancona School, to make this happen.

Although many folks at LSTC were away for the holidays, the first family received a warm welcome through the collaborative efforts of all participating organizations and those who remained on campus. There was an equally warm welcome in February. RefugeeOne guided the Hyde Park Refugee Project through the various ways of providing support. Most refugees to Chicago are placed on the north side, closer to RefugeeOne’s offices and resources. However, as the number of refugees has increased greatly in the past year or two, Hyde Park is now considered an additional area to create community, resources and opportunities for refugee families.

Community responds to need

It didn’t take long to raise financial support, find volunteer mentors and tutors, gather donated household items and furniture, and identify community resources. The response of the community was so overwhelming that plans were set to co-sponsor a second family.

Organizers have already learned much about how to provide hospitality and a smooth transition while helping the refugees attain self-reliance as quickly as possible. In their exuberance to welcome them, those close to the Hyde Park Refugee Project learned to give the new residents time and space to adjust, to heal from possible trauma, to respect
their privacy and sense of security, and to let them establish themselves independently in this new environment.

The cultural adjustment for both refugees as well as sponsors is significant. Both are navigating language barriers, religious sensitivities and countless procedures. For those who are in close relationship with the families, RefugeeOne offers training and guidance, experience and wisdom. For most on LSTC’s campus, the task is simply to be helpful and patient neighbors.

In February, the LSTC community held an informational and fundraising dinner. Leaders shared information about how to best support refugees during the transition to a different political administration in the U.S. They also shared particulars of co-sponsoring refugees and led a conversation about inter-religious engagement.

Trumm is program coordinator of A Center for Christian-Muslim Engagement for Peace and Justice at LSTC.

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