About a year ago, we here at Social Good Families produced a short documentary called “Imperfect Activism” that, among other things, highlighted some families that were opening their own homes to refugees.
What compels a person to open their home, sharing their spare rooms, or even just their spare couch to perfect strangers? It takes courage, a willingness to be vulnerable, an open-mind, and sometimes a lot of work and sacrifice. Many of us look at the suffering in the world and we want to help, but we feel helpless. Not many of us take the necessary and inconvenient next steps to actually make a difference for the one or the few. We want things to change globally, but are we willing to change … locally?
We are reminded, once again, of this quote by Theodore Roosevelt:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the [one] who points out how the strong [one] stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the [one] who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends him [or her] self in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he [or she] fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his [or her] place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
In that same spirit, we are now turning our attention, again, to the current crisis at the southern US border. Last August, we produced a series of posts about asylum seekers and what happens to them at detention centers. The final post listed 16 ways to help asylum seekers, one of which was hosting an asylum seeker. Well, one family is stepping up to do just that, and we are following their journey.
We have changed the names and omitted locations in order to protect the privacy of all involved. We will post weekly installments of their experiences, a few months behind realtime. Our hope is that the posts will shed light on an aspect of the border crisis that isn’t often seen or heard of, increase empathy for all those seeking asylum (and those struggling to help them through the process), and finally, inspire someone to act by hosting a family or help in any other way. Feel free to ask questions as we go along. We can’t promise answers, but we will do our best.
…Are you ready?
How to host a person seeking asylum in 3 simple steps:
- Find an organization in your state through which to host (such as SURJ).
- Pass a series of interviews/background checks, etc.
- Get matched with an individual or family waiting on the other side of the border.
Sounds easy enough, right? Would YOU be willing to do it?
My friend Lucy, a good human to her core, decided to go for it. She and her family felt compelled to help after seeing so many stories of human suffering at the US border. She is a wife and mother of two school-aged children who works part time. She has her hands full already, but she didn’t let that stop her. She and her husband underwent steps 1, 2, and 3, and eventually got matched with a mother Maria, her school-aged son Juan, and potentially her teenage daughter, Julia, who has been living in a detention center for nearly a year in another state, if they can get reunited.
… but that, of course, was the easy part.
Here are the basic challenges hosting families face in a nutshell:
- They are given no real training.
- There is a huge language barrier. Lucy and her family speak little to no Spanish, and the family to which they were matched speaks no English, so if you speak another language, it can be a huge plus!
- It’s a major financial burden, time commitment, and logistical challenge. They were told that they would need to feed and house the family, provide them with transportation to immigration and ICE appointments, help them find an attorney, and help find resources and care for their basic needs (medical, mental, dental, educational, communication, etc.)
- The family has no medical insurance and we all know that even a small medical incident can rack up hundreds to thousands of dollars. Lucy and her family are not prepared to pay for any potential medical/dental expenses beyond Advil and cough medicine.
In these posts, we will show you glimpses of what it is really like to open your home and help another family who is fleeing violence in their home country. Next week, we will post about how things went with Lucy and her family, and Maria and her son during their first week together.