Darlene Miller will be 85 years old in August. She has spent much of the last few months of her 84th year tucked in behind her sewing machine, making more than 1,300 masks for the Grand Island, Nebraska, community where she lives. In fact, her masks have been shipped throughout the state, and some landed at Saint Francis offices where they were gratefully received for children, families, and employees.
The COVID-19 pandemic created an unprecedented shift in how Saint Francis Ministries approaches the services we provide for children and families. Impacts from the pandemic unfolded over several months in the communities where Saint Francis works, and the organization expects to see long-term challenges. With an initial focus on supporting staff and clients in staying safe and healthy, Saint Francis has begun to develop new ways of serving children and families.
Yeni Telles spoke no English - and as first-generation Mexican immigrant student at Los Angeles High School, no one cared. Assigned to “C Track,” few expected she’d accomplish much anyway, except maybe drop out of school, get married, and take a low-wage job to get by. U.S.-born Track A and Chicano Track B students could take courses that prepared them for college and other educational opportunities. Students on Track C barely knew other opportunities existed. One teacher, however, encouraged potential in his students. Yeni still remembers the day when he asked his class to share what their dream job would be, and she said she wanted to be a flight attendant. “Flight attendant?” he said. “Why not be the pilot? The pilot drives the plane.” That day, Yeni began to imagine a future beyond what she’d been told to accept.
Saint Francis Migration Ministries asked refugees we worked with to share whatever details of their story they were comfortable sharing. A refugee, who preferred not to be named, shared the information below:
Over 70.8 million human beings were forced to leave their homes. They come to this country seeking safety, security, and a life free from violence and persecution. Most of the students I have in class were born in refugee camps. They spent the entirety of their childhoods—in refugee camps. The one family that I work with that did not have this experience only spent 6 years in the refugee camp because one of the family members was in desperate need of medical attention.
I’m from Congo. My family is Muslim. When I was 13 years old, my father borrowed money from his friend. Then, when he came to get it my father told him, “I don’t have your money, but I have my daughter that you can take her.” The man was 35 years old, and I stayed with him for about 6 months until the war started.
Libby Eaton volunteers her time with refugees in Wichita, Kansas, and to celebrate World Refugee Day, she sent us a bunch of wonderful photos. So we asked her to elaborate on why she volunteers and is drawn to supporting refugee families. Here's her answer:
World Refugee Day is celebrated every year on June 20 to raise awareness of refugees, their challenges, strength, and resiliency. Saint Francis Ministries works with numerous partners, communities, and individuals to help create a more inclusive world. At the end of 2019, more than 79.5 million people had fled their homes to get away from persecution, war, violence, and human rights violations. Everyone can make a difference.
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Overt racism against African Americans continues to be revealed in the United States. I am deeply concerned; as I pray you are. We cannot deny that there are injustices heaped upon members of our communities who are in greater danger than other members. Such vulnerability should in no way be interpreted as weakness.