I told my kids about the refugee crisis today.
I know, it’s been happening for a long time, but I never had the words to use to tell that what was happening, and why. I didn’t know how to package it up in a way that my kids could know or understand even in their small way, so I remained silent about it, as my heart broke for these displaced people all across our world.
Today it changed. I told them what was happening because I finally found a way that we (yes, even the kids!) can be involved in helping the people who have been displaced.
I didn’t tell them the numbers or the reasons for the war. They don’t know that there are 65 million displaced people worldwide right now and 20 million registered as refugees with the UN. I didn’t tell them how only 8% are ever recommended for resettlement in another country, and of that 8% less than 1% actually resettle. Roughly 120,000 people last year found new homes in other countries, which is a lot until you remember that starting number of 65 million.
Last year, our city took 2,700 refugees for resettlement. Houston is taking so many people right now, and I’ve been at a loss as to what I can do to help. I don’t know what they need, or how how to join them in making this foreign land a home, but my heart breaks for them.
This past month, I found out about a local organization called Houston Welcomes Refugees. They have a variety of ways people can assist refugees as they settle into life here in the States.
I went to an orientation meeting a couple weeks ago, and knew this was exactly what I had been looking for. They had ways we can help the refugees both individually, and as a family. So it opened the door to tell my kids about these people and how they have been displaced, losing their homes, their toys and everything they’ve ever known.
My kids got very serious when I told them. At only age 6 and 4 I know their little minds can’t quite comprehend the tragedy occuring so far away in other parts of the world, but when I mentioned that there were people coming HERE to our city, to make a new home their response was immediate.
Can we be their friends? Can we have a playdate with them? Maybe we can share some of our food with them if they don’t have any!
In the middle of our conversation I got an interview call that was a follow-up to the orientation with Houston Welcomes Refugees that I had done a few weeks earlier. I left them playing and went off to take the call.
When I got off the phone interview and came out of my room both kids came running over to me with bags full of water bottles and a few canned goods in hand. I’m ashamed to say I started to gently scold them asking why they had been digging around in the pantry (they aren’t allowed in our pantry). “Mommy can we give these to the people?” “These are for the refugees mommy, we found bags for our things to give them so they have food and water. All scolding stuck in my throat as I teared up at the simplicity of the problem for them.
For adults, this is such a huge issue, that goes beyond my comprehension about how to stop this crisis. But for kids, the answer is simple. They don’t know why wars are happening. They have no idea about laws and legislation in regards to refugees entering our country. They don’t know words like republican or democrat or what those groups represent. To a child, there is only a need, and simple ways of meeting that need.
Some one is hungry, so we will share our food.
Some one is thirsty so we will bring them water.
A child left her home and is lonely in a new country, we want to be her friend.
Now don’t get me wrong, my kids aren’t perfect little saints, ready to sacrifice anything for those in need. While they were happy to grab things we don’t need from the pantry, my daughter (4) was quick to clarify she wouldn’t be giving away any of her dolls to other kids, but she’d be happy to help me pick out new dolls to buy for them.
My kids are kids, just like every one else’s and I am looking forward to broadening their eyes to the things happening around us in the world, and doing so in a way that they can understand and even help with.
The burden doesn’t have to be strong, but I do want them aware of what is going on in the world and looking for ways to help. Seeing the ways we can help as a family .
I know that even saying the word “refugee” can be considered as starting a political debate. That is not my heart in sharing this with you. I have my opinions on how our country should be handling the refugees, but I don’t feel the need to share them. The fact of the matter is these people are here.
And if they are here I believe it is our responsibility to love them, to welcome them and to help them find their place in this country. It doesn’t have anything to do with politics, it has to do with being human, seeing other people in need, and wanting to help.
As a Christian, I want to welcome them, because that is what I see the Bible telling me to do. To welcome the stranger with open arms and the same love and grace I’ve been given from God.
‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:34-40)
Houston Welcomes Refugees does many things with the refugees in our city. You can apply to work with them directly, being assigned a family to befriend and help as they learn English and figure out how to navigate a brand new city. This will involve those playdates my kids were asking for, and we’re excited to experience life with new friends from the other side of the world.
They also have other ways to help, if you aren’t in a position where you can make the commitment to working with a family long-term.
Helping refugees could be something as small as adding a $2 item from this list to your cart and having it shipped to their collection center when you make your next amazon order!
Local friends, you can attend an orientation like I did, if you are interested in being matched with a refugee family or work in other ways, like prepping houses for arrival, doing little things that make a house feel like “home”. Or even organizing a welcome kit drive to make sure the refugees have what they need when they arrive.
There are many ways to help in small ways and in larger, more time consuming ways.
I’m not sure what all this journey will look like for our family. I’m even less sure what (if any) of it I’ll be able to share here, out of respect for our new friends who have been uprooted and placed in our city and may not want their photos or information posted online.
But, I did want to share this opportunity with you. I know lots of my readers live in Houston, and I wanted to tell you about this specific organization in case you had been looking for a way to befriend the refugees, like we had.
If you aren’t local, I encourage you to see if there are any similar organizations doing something in your city. If not, there are ways you can help with Houston Welcomes Refugees, even from far away. They have a wish list on amazon that helps fill welcome kits and the list of needs is lengthy. This can be a fun way to be involved with kids as well, as you can look through the amazon list together and pick out what to buy.
Have you told your children about the refugee crisis? How did you handle the topic if you did? I waited until I had a tangible way for them to help because I didn’t know how. I would love to hear about your conversations in the comments!