September 20, 2021 | Articles by Susan Meister
“Headlines came home” on Sunday, September 12 to the Great Hall at First UMC Arlington. Presenters from Refugee Services of Texas (RST) explained the work of the agency, particularly for those leaving Afghanistan. We are looking forward to supporting RST in the near future and there are several different ways for you to get involved. (see below for details on how you can help)
Nearly 50 attended the presentation, including 20 members of First Church’s Advocates for Social Justice group, the sponsor of the event. Other guests were able to see the presentation as it was live streamed on the church’s Facebook page and website.
Presenters Hope Goldman, Community Engagement Coordinator, and Kaitlin Roberson, Development Associate, explained how the RST Resettlement Program becomes a lifeline for refugees by providing for basic needs and services during their initial resettlement period in the United States. The services include welcoming arriving families at the airport, providing access to food and clothing, procuring housing, cultural orientation, applications for benefits, coordinating health care, and school enrollment. Roberson addressed fears of a language barrier for anyone on a welcoming/mentoring team. “You can convey a lot without language,” she said. “Just give lots of smiles. We strive to give (the families) a dignified welcome and set them up for success.” RST has staff and on-call resources for as many as 36 languages.
To date, RST has resettled 314 Afghans admitted to the U.S. through the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program, issued to eligible Afghan translators and interpreters who have worked directly with the U.S. Armed Forces. (SIVs have also been issued to Iraqis.) The agency projects an additional 574 more refugees will arrive and need help by the end September. When refugees do arrive, the RST must respond quickly – sometimes staffers have only 4 hours to prepare for the arrival of new refugees – down from the normal two-week notification time frame.
There are several ways our church is planning to respond to this need immediately and as an ongoing effort as partners with Refugee Services of Texas. Right now, RST has set a goal to increase donations made through North Texas Giving Day, scheduled for September 23. “Last year on North Texas Giving Day, we received $38,000 from individuals in all 50 states,” Roberson said. “People really care.” The goal for 2021 is $45,000. The web site for more details about the agency and for making donations is rstx.org. Then on September 25, volunteers and financial support are needed for NTGD Soccer Festival, held at University of Texas, Arlington. For more information, click here: NTGD Soccer Festival
While the goal for new refugees is self-sufficiency in 5 months, Roberson detailed the daunting challenges individuals and families face in their new home, including a lot of trauma and fear. Refugees often must take jobs completely different than their professional backgrounds. Seventy percent of the arrivals are women and children.
First UMC Arlington member Jerrilyn W. Woodard-Entrekin explained Advocates for Social Justice, the sponsoring group for this presentation, is a faith-based group of individuals committed to mobilizing and energizing people to be agents of God’s love, justice, peace and reconciliation. “We invite all people to join us in our faith journey toward greater love, understanding and mutual respect,” she said. Contact her at
TO SUPPORT REFUGEE SERVICES OF TEXAS:
- Donate as part of North Texas Giving Day, September 23. Visit the Refugee Services of Texas website for details on how to give.
- Volunteer for the North Texas Giving Day Soccer Tournament September 25 at UTA. Sign up here: NTGD Soccer Festival
OTHER WAYS YOU CAN HELP
- Serving on welcoming teams
- Mentoring arriving families
- Donating supplies
- Providing storage space
Volunteers working directly with refugees will need to complete a criminal background check specific to RST work.
If you would like to be part of volunteering at Refugee Services of Texas contact:
Hope Goldman, RST Community Engagement Coordinator