St. Paul’s Refugee Committee, a subcommittee of St. Paul’s Outreach Commission, was initiated in September 2016. Originally, the goal of our committee was to support one family by meeting as many of their needs as possible beginning with greeting them at the airport when the families arrived in Pittsburgh. We moved away from that goal when we learned that resettlement agencies, with funds from the federal government, meet most of the refugee families’ needs in their first three months of living in the U.S. We began working with Rebecca Johnson from a local resettlement agency (Northern Area Multi-Services Center (NAMS) Community Assistance and Refugee Resettlement (CARR)) to develop a volunteer program that would support, but not duplicate or replace, the work of her agency. Our volunteers support refugee families primarily by providing English as a Second Language (ESL) tutoring or life skills training.
We currently have volunteers from our committee supporting five refugee families in various stages of their new lives in the U.S. Our volunteers are finding that some of their families have many unmet needs related to medical issues, education, housing and transportation. Several of the families have more needs than one volunteer can meet through ESL or life skills training. Two of our families recently welcomed new babies into their families, which blessed events have created needs for new necessities and life skills.
Parishioners at St. Paul’s have supported these families through an Easter basket collection in April and a drive for bus passes, household goods and supplies in May. To address the ongoing needs of these families, Kerry McGee, co-chair of the St. Paul’s Refugee Committee, created a bulletin board in the Undercroft that identifies current needs of our families such as furniture, clothing and household items. We hope that the bulletin board will provide an efficient way for our parishioners to provide some of the necessities for our families that they are not able to provide for themselves.