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.
When asked, John just smiles and shrugs his shoulders. “No, we’ve never had any problems with it at all,” he says. “It’s been a big part of our lives, and we really have enjoyed it.” After 43 years of foster parenting, John and Debra Holt say they can’t recall one negative experience - although their response might have more to do with the Tulsa couple’s outlook on life than anything else. They have cared for more than 400 children over the years, and each new child who comes into their home still feels like the first. And each child receives the same care, attention, and unconditional love as the hundreds who came before. “We can’t imagine our life without it,” says John.
After fostering children for more than a decade, Kevin and Lori still don’t believe they’re anything special. They’ve simply done what they were supposed to do. It’s how they were raised. “It’s what we were brought up to do,” said Lori. “We give back, first to family, then to friends and the community. Always give back.” You could say their foster care journey started more than 15 years ago when they assumed legal guardianship of Lori’s 4-year-old niece, and 5-year-old nephew. They didn’t even think about it. As far as the Salina, Kansas, couple was concerned, the children were family and they needed help. So, they took in the two little ones and began raising them as their own. About four years into it, they began having conversations with Kevin’s cousin, a licensed foster parent. “He told us about all these kids who needed homes,” said Lori. “So, Kevin and I talked about it for several months and then decided to go ahead and get licensed ourselves.”