AMFA could not do what it does without willing students and young people. We pair student volunteers with refugee kids as "big brothers" and "big sisters", or as tutors. Many refugee kids suffer from PTSD, and are desperately yearning for belonging and friends they could trust. There is a substantial shortage of mentors and playmates who will encourage them to transition into their new culture in Godly ways. Students could also be paired with adults who need ESL tutoring, or help preparing for the GED.
We have seen God work in amazing ways through the involvement of student volunteers in the AMFA project. They have filled a void in refugees' lives. But, Muslim refugees have also been a blessing to our student refugees by opening their eyes and expanding their horizons and knowledge--both about the world at large and about God.
You can also always join in on activities such as: 1) Meet new refugees at the airport. Prepare a "welcome basket" (baked goods, a welcoming card, and small toys for children) and take a sign. Your resettlement office can provide the arrival information.
2) Personalized English as second language (ESL) tutoring. We focus on conversational English. If you are part of a church team or a student volunteer, visit the family in their home and offer them ESL one on one. This is especially important for women who usually do not have much exposure outside the home.
3) New neighbor orientation. We provide practical cultural tools for understanding how things are done in North America and how to access support. This includes how to sort out junk mail, how to use coupons, how to fill out official forms, and how to find information online. An especially difficult area is understanding how the health system functions and how to access health care.
4) Homework support. According to UNICEF, 68% of young refugees have not been able to attend school due to social, legal, or economic barriers. Therefore, we especially focus on offering support to children and teens who may have missed years of education as they waited for their refugee status to be approved.
5) Transportation. We take our friends food and clothes shopping, especially to buy children's school uniforms. We help them find their local Arab food shop and point them to our favorite thrift store, or take them to Sam's Club or Costco to buy in bulk. We drive them to medical appointments and teach them how to use the bus line.
6) Fun outings. Remember, our neighbors come from war-torn areas, so we invite them to have fun outings. Together, we visit our city’s main attractions (zoo, aquarium, children's museum, rides, and more). We also invite them to our homes and to picnics—Middle Easterners love to have picnics. Or it can be as simple as playing a game together!
7) Friendship building. Visit your refugee family, especially when they are new. Receive their gracious hospitality and bless them too. Take time to ask them for their stories and listen to their needs. It is our desire to form new relationships, not just provide services.
8) Prayers. Always pray. Pray for the family and pray with the family. In prayer we acknowledge the centrality of God and our need to have Him in our lives. At times your family’s needs or pain may feel overwhelming. Remember that those needs and pain belong to God, so bring them in prayer to Him. God is faithful and He will work out His purposes in ways that may surprise you. Pray to God and close in the name of Jesus, for this is how our Lord taught us to pray.
Do you have questions? We love hearing from you! Are you serving among refugees in your area? Tell us what you do! Do you have ideas worth spreading? Write to us.