Our newest neighbors are refugee families who have fled their countries due to persecution, war, or violence.
My husband and I have been involved with 5 families over the past 5 years who have fled Iraq, Syria, or the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Our lives have been immeasurably enriched by walking along side of each of these families as they enter schools, work, and community life in Salem. The Salem community is stronger and richer due to these families who are now part of the fabric of Salem.
Since 2016, refugees coming to Salem have been supported by a grass-roots community organization called Salem For Refugees. Salem For Refugees is composed of individual volunteers, faith communities, businesses, non-profits, government organizations, and civic groups.
Salem will soon become home to 20 Afghan families, and that is why I am writing this open letter to UUCS. We have all watched in anguish as the United States ended its role in the War in Afghanistan and saw so many of the Afghan people at the airport hoping to flee to a safe country.
One of the ways UUCS members can welcome these brave, courageous, and hopeful people to Salem is by forming a “Good Neighbor Team”. Each new family resettling in Salem needs to have a “Good Neighbor Team” to offer friendship, support and help with acculturation to life in Salem, Oregon.
Each Good Neighbor Team is composed of 4 to 10 individuals who undergo training by Salem For Refugees staff before being assigned to a refugee family. Each Good Neighbor Team makes a commitment to have a team member visit their assigned family once a week for a period of a year. The needs of each family will vary, and the training from Salem For Refugees provides each Good Neighbor Team with the skills and support needed to be helpful, respectful, and welcoming.
By joining a Good Neighbor Team you demonstrate that you value diversity, you value and respect other cultures, and you want to participate in proving that love is alive and stronger than fear. I can promise you that you will be enriched by the opportunity to befriend our newest neighbors. i can promise you that you will grow and learn and be strengthened as you become friends with people who are restarting their lives in Salem.
If I have touched your heart, I am grateful and I thank you.
Please contact the office if you have questions or you’d like Joan Stembridge to connect you with Salem For Refugees training to become a Good Neighbor Team member.