By Emily Laney, Director, Refugee and Immigration Services at LSG
Today is World Refugee Day - a time when people gather together across the globe to remember the struggles refugees face, but also to celebrate the amazing ways they contribute in their new communities. We’ve been working with refugees for over 30 years at LSG, and have seen thousands of refugees find success in the state of Georgia. We feel so blessed to be able to meet and engage with so many incredible people year after year as they start their lives anew in our state. So far this year, we’ve welcomed several hundred refugees to Atlanta and Savannah, including nearly 50 Syrians.
Refugees have been in the spotlight quite a while now. The Syrian civil war, along with other increasing conflicts around the world, have created 60 million displaced people- the most since the Second World War. The drowning death of a three-year-old boy shocked the world last fall and gave even more weight to the humanity of these 60 million precious people. But in the aftermath of the Paris attacks, refugee resettlement was thrust into the spotlight for very different reasons, and the work to create new futures for refugees was questioned by many. It has most certainly been quite a year for those of us who work with refugees.
I feel extremely fortunate to be able to lead our Refugee and Immigration Services team. Each day when I come to work, I have the privilege of seeing how refugee resettlement has created so many new futures. I see our staff members who were resettled by LSG several years ago and now work tirelessly to guide new clients through the resettlement process.
I’ve celebrated as colleagues pass their citizenship tests. I’ve heard stories from former refugees who have found success in Georgia and lead our team. I see the nervous smiles of new clients as they’re shown around the office for the first time. I hear volunteers working on resumes with refugees down the hall from my office as they prepare for their first jobs in America. The occasional former client may stop by to see the employment specialists and the case managers that helped them when they first arrived.
Every day I see proof of what I know so well: refugees are incredible people. They are resilient, they are survivors. Adjusting to life in America is hard, but so many remain optimistic. They are eager to work and support their families. They cherish and value education and prioritize it for their children. They are part of what makes America so great.
Our work with refugees was never intended to be just resettlement agencies completing a checklist of resettlement for new clients. It has always taken collective efforts from the community to create welcome for these new families. And we at LSG have seen those efforts in tremendous ways in both Atlanta and Savannah.
So on a day like today, we want to say thank you. We are grateful for all of our volunteers and supporters around the state who have helped us welcome refugees. We are grateful for the advocates who posted positive messages about refugees on their social media accounts, or engaged in conversations with their friends about all the amazing things refugees bring to our communities. Thank you to all of the churches, employers, and community groups who provide support to refugees. Thank you to everyone who has donated to our work, whether it be furniture, clothing, time or finances- each item and each dollar do so much to create welcome.
Join us at LSG as we honor refugees today. And feel free to come join us on this journey with these amazing newcomers. We would love to have you. Visit our website to learn more about volunteer opportunities and other ways you can help.