Well folks- here goes! Our first family! A Congolese family of 6- Mom, Dad and 4 kids, have been officially accepted into the new Missoula IRC resettlement program and will be arriving in the next few weeks! The last month especially has been a whirlwind as we have been solidifying plans, organizing volunteers and working closely with the IRC in preparation to help make Missoula home for this family and those that will follow. Thanks so so much to the volunteers who have stepped up to be on committees and part of Mentor teams.
As has always been our most fortunate experience, we have more volunteers than jobs ;) This will not always be the case and I assure you, if you don't have a role for this first family, you will have a role in the near future and we so appreciate you. One area in which we want to be sensitive is to not overwhelm the possibly exhausted travelers and give them space to find a bit of peace and a breath upon their arrival here in Missoula. I know that we are all feeling compelled to show welcome and are very excited to meet our new neighbors and hear their stories, but this needs to be on their time frame. There may be people that come ready and willing to share these stories and their time and energy with all, and there may be those who need the space to retreat for a while. I know that we all understand and will be respectful of this.
One of the many things the IRC is in the process of organizing for this family is housing. We have helped them start the process of forming relationships and reaching out to landlords and property managers, but wanted to put the "need" out to you all as well. The IRC is looking for a 3 bedroom house or apartment for this family. There are of course special challenges- and opportunities!- that come to renting to refugees, but if you know of anyone you think we should be in touch with, or are aware of any available housing that we should look into, please let me know by responding to this email or contacting me.
All of you wonderful folks who have been holding onto household donations, we finally have a spot for these to go! The Bicycle Hangar - 1801 Brooks Street location only- has very generously offered space to serve as a drop-off location. They are ready to receive items during business hours and we are planning on setting up the apartment/house (as yet to be found) in the next couple of weeks. If you have larger items that it would be smarter to only move once, please contact me and we can arrange to have them dropped off at the actual rental when we are ready. Molly Short Carr from the IRC has identified these items as the most important for us to try and provide so they don't have to be purchased with the tiny amount of money granted each family.
- Love seats
- Table and Chairs
- Bed Frames
- Pots and Pans
- Dish Sets
- Twin sheet sets
We have also been brainstorming about clothing donations as many of you have shown interest in this as well. I encourage you to donate clothes, but it is a challenge to directly give clothing to individuals due to size and preference. Something that has worked in other locations is a "Clothes Closet" where people can come select from available clothing once or twice a week. Once SLM has space, this is something we may be able to do, but in the meantime if anyone knows of a small free space to run this out of (possibly a church?) I would love to chat ;)
Many people have expressed interest in learning more about the Congo and the refugees that are coming our way. We have just updated our website and have a great and growing "Incoming Refugees" page. We are also making plans for an event in mid-September to talk about historical and present day issues facing the Congo and the Congolese people, as well as learn about celebrate Congolese culture. There will be more details coming on this event soon so stay tuned!
Lastly- we are starting a new tradition of Volunteer of the Month! Our first award goes to Miranda Bradley! We are so so lucky to have this awesome woman on our team! Just in the last few weeks, she has helped take our website to a new level, has worked furiously at transferring all of our great resources from our Facebook "Group" to a more versatile "Page", has stepped up to be on our Outreach and Education Committee and on top of all this, has dreams of teaching refugee children how to swim ;) We love you Miranda and appreciate all you are doing!
Truly, I love and appreciate you all. I have spent a lot of time in the last year trying to figure out how to soften and make more productive the conversation around issues related to refugee resettlement. I absolutely feel this is necessary and important, but I also want you to know that I am so proud of the good we are doing in the world. I am proud that we will be making a difference in the lives of individuals and families that have been so affected by the horrors of war and challenges of trying to make a life in a refugee camp. I am absolutely smitten by the new Refugee Olympic Team and I really believe that we are doing our own little part to spread the same hope, peace and opportunity that these new Olympians are so bravely showing the world. I am proud of you.