December 12, 2018

Saturday, December 8th, we hosted our first refugee youth soccer tournament—The Winter Cup 2018—at the San Juan Soccer Club Futsal facility in Rancho Cordova. Registration opened at 8:30 a.m., but by 8:00 a.m. a large queue had already formed. Players were eager to know which team they were on and to meet their coaches. Before the tournament officially began, the eight competing teams gathered to hear rules and words of welcome from organizer, Luke Voight. 

Part of Sports Friends International, Luke and his wife, Becca, joined World Relief this summer to launch The Welcome Club, an after-school refugee youth program serving children in the Arden Arcade and Carmichael area. For the past several months, they have organized weekly soccer games and activities for Afghan refugee children. While Luke ran the tournament, Becca oversaw a carnival for the players and their siblings. 

The teams were divided into two divisions—four under 10’s teams (U10) and four under 14’s (U14). After pool play finished, players and spectators broke for lunch from a halal pizza grill. Two of the four semifinal matches ended in penalty kicks. In both instances, the courts erupted into celebration. Parents snapped photos and videos, and players hoisted the goalkeeper and final scorer onto their shoulders. Ultimately, the blue team also known as the Afghan Kings won the U10 division, and the yellow team known as Team Motahid from Starting Point for Refugee Children (another local nonprofit) won the U14 division. 

Organizing The Winter Cup was a massive community effort. San Juan Soccer Club not only donated their space but also water coolers, canopies, and even providing last minute apparel. One of their board members noticed several of the players in jeans and gave their coaches shorts for the finals, saying he didn’t want the players feeling left out. River City Christian Church provided a shuttle transporting many of the tournament participants. Twenty plus volunteers donated their time coaching, reffing, setting up, or helping with the carnival. Of volunteer efforts, Luke said, “I was really impressed by our coaches and refs who made everything go so smoothly and kept the kids ‘in it’ even if they were on a losing team.  [They] were so encouraging to the players and parents...Watching the volunteers connect deeper with the Afghan community was wonderful!” Volunteer assistant coach, Mary Ann Wyatt, observed, “I could see how much joy this event brought the children and parents involved. It was exciting to see how everything came together so perfectly.” More than 75 players and their families were in attendance. Starting Point for Refugee Children brought dozens of supporters to cheer on their team. Members from San Juan school district and Starr King Elementary School’s principal came to support. 

Events like The Winter Cup are new for World Relief Sacramento. For most of our history, we have served families through traditional resettlement services. This past year, however, we have shifted our focus, taken a step back, and reevaluated what it means to empower the local church and community to serve the most vulnerable. We are developing Children and Youth Services that support the entire family as they move from feeling stable to fully integrated in their new city. We look forward to what 2019 holds as we deepen our commitment to coming alongside and celebrating with our refugee neighbors. 

November 20, 2018

This month we hosted our first storytelling night, “Journeys to Belonging,” at Beatnik Studios in downtown Sacramento. Over 200 attendees came to hear stories from refugee and immigrant women, as well as World Relief staff members highlighting different aspects of what it means to belong and feel connected to your new home. DeVon, Wade, World Relief's Church Mobilizer, stated the fact that “when you know someone’s story, they move from being a stranger to becoming your neighbor.” 

The night's first speaker, Svitlana, came as a refugee from Ukraine. She and her husband came wanted to raise their family in a safer place, one where there would be no threaf of mandatory military service. She was expecting twins and was barely halfway through her pregnancy. Shortly after arriving in Sacramento, she went to the hospital for a checkup, and the doctor informed her that in a matter of minutes her first child would be born. At twenty seven weeks, she gave birth to her son and daughter. Her son needed an oxygen mask to breathe, and her daughter’s heartbeat was irregular. Svitlana’s World Relief caseworker asked what her family needed. They asked if World Relief could bring them food. They were spending as much time as they could at the hospital, going home only to shower, change clothes, and maybe get a few hours of sleep.

Svitlana expected World Relief volunteers to come, drop off food, and leave. She did not expect them to stay, to hold her children, to ask the doctors and nurses questions on their behalf. She did not expect to form friendships. Prior to coming to the United States, she thought of Americans as people who smiled and said, “How are you?” without meaning it. She no longer holds to that assumption and now describes Americans as genuine people. She concluded her story by inviting her husband and their two children to the stage, who were received with enthusiastic applause. At their last checkup, the doctors could not believe they had been born premature. Like the audience, all they saw were happy and active toddlers. 

For the second storyteller, Irina, belonging had always been somewhat illusive. Born in Uzbekistan but having spent most of her life in Ukraine, she was ostracised. In her words, she was often “the only Asian girl in [her] class” and her family was protestant in an orthodox country. She and her husband, Paul, spent the first two years of their marriage in China, his home country. Because he was a Bible teacher, the government frequently threatened to revoke Irina’s visa. They tried returning to Ukraine, but when they refused to pay a bribe to the government, Paul’s visa was denied. So, they decided to seek asylum in the United States. Passports stacked on top of one another, they held hands and walked to the US-Mexico border. They were sent to detention centers on opposite ends of the country—Irina to Bakersfield,CA, and Paul to Georgia. 

Of her detention experience Irina says, “I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.” Even as she reflected on the experience, she told the audience about others who in her mind, however, had made more difficult journeys. Like the women from Eretria who started as group of four but were only three, their friend drowning while trying to cross a river. After four months, she won her case and came to Sacramento. Paul joined her a month later. Having spent most of their money on legal fees, they felt discouraged. A friend suggested they reach out to World Relief Sacramento for assistance. Irina was skeptical: “Why would they help me? I chose to leave Ukraine.” Nevertheless, she took her friend’s advice, and she and Paul received help with housing, employment, and transportation. This year they welcomed their first child, and Irina told the audience she was excited to raise her family in America. As a former client, she still feels connected to our office, maintaining friendships with staff. For her, Sacramento feels like home. 

For Irina, making it to Sacramento was the start of her journey to belonging. Kobra, the night’s final storyteller, had hoped for the same. She thought that in America she would be a stronger, more independent woman. Growing up in Afghanistan, she had attended school for only four years before the Taliban banned girls from pursuing education. She liked school and had dreams of becoming a reporter. A few years ago, when she came to America, she enrolled in ESL classes. She wanted to learn the language, understand transportation systems and not be so dependent on her friends and neighbors who she felt had no time for her. The ESL classes, however, were not as helpful as she had hoped. The students were at different levels, most far more advanced than her, and when she asked questions, she was met with unkind, impatient remarks. She felt even more isolated and hopeless.

One of her friends had been attending World Relief's ESL and activities classes. These were being (and continue to be) held at Kobra's complex, and they are designed specifically for Afghan refugee women who have not learned to read or write in their native languages. The first few classes, Kobra said, she wasn’t sure what to think. Now, she wishes they were offered more than twice a week. She feels confident. The classes are good for her both “mentally and spiritually.” Kobra talked about practicing English with her husband and how she’d learned the difference between “love” and “like.” She flashed the audience a big smile as she said, “I love my husband. I like my mother-in-law.” The crowd laughed and cheered. 

The number of refugees and displaced people is at an all time high. Now, more than, ever we want to hear refugee and immigrant voices. We are incredibly grateful for Svitlana, Irina and Kobra’s stories. Over the past three years, our region has welcomed more refugees than anywhere in the nation. Even as the number of refugees being admitted into the US decreases, our organizational mission does not change. The ingredients to making a new place home goes beyond the initial welcome and settling in process. We are committed to providing programs and services like employment and ESL classes that focus on integration and address barriers to belonging.

We are thankful for the staff who introduced each of our storytellers, to event volunteers who set up chairs and transformed a blank space into an intimate stage area that resembled a living room. We are grateful Society Church for providing AV and sound assistance, as well as our caterer, FreshMed, and the women from our refugee women’s classes who baked Afghan cookies for dessert. We look forward to hosting future social events like Journeys to Belonging where strangers become neighbors and friends become family.  

November 12, 2018

SACRIFICE AND THE COSTS OF THE REFUGEE SLOWDOWN

“As long as I am alive and breathing, you will be okay,” Ghulam exclaimed as he pulled Jawad out of the mangled U.S. army vehicle. They had trained for a scenario such as this many times before, but neither expected it would become their reality. Jawad, a linguist for the 82nd Airborne, had been trapped inside the very vehicle meant to protect him. He was bleeding badly and in shock. The unexpected IED strike killed Jawad’s co-passenger, and had it not been for Ghulam, Jawad might have experienced the same fate.  

It would have been easy to panic, but Ghulam remained calm and even encouraging throughout. In Jawad’s words, he acted as a “true brother,” kindly laughing at Jawad’s fear and then giving him bravery and courage despite the grim circumstances. They had a job to do. There were three more sites to secure, three more IEDs to deal with. They needed to keep the Taliban at bay until reinforcements arrived. Jawad was medevac'd via Blackhawk helicopter to Lagman Hospital where he’d spend a month before making a full recovery. Ghulam had saved his life. By all accounts, he was a hero. 

World Relief Sacramento Cultural Advisor, Jawad Khawari (left) with his friend Ghulam. Afghanistan, 2010

For 10 years, Ghulam served alongside the U.S. military in countless battles before making the difficult decision to apply for a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) to come to the United States. Like so many Afghans and Iraqis who have dedicated their lives to serving our military efforts, this was a life-or-death decision for Ghulam. With more than 17,000 Afghans in the SIV pipeline, he knew obtaining a visa wouldn’t be easy. However, he hoped for a life free from combat where he could get married and have children. After all, he’d remained in contact with men like Jawad who had successfully come to the U.S. under the SIV program. Ghulam was never able to experience the life free from war he longed for. The extended screenings and waiting process proved fatal.  This summer, Ghulam was killed by a Taliban-placed IED on the same stretch of road where he’d previously rescued Jawad.  

From October 2016 through September 2017, the U.S. granted SIV status to 19,321 individuals from Afghanistan who had served the U.S. military. From October 2017 through September 2018, SIV arrivals were cut to just 9,953—less than half of the arrivals compared to the previous year. When asked about the drastic reduction in visas being issued, a Department of Homeland Security official said that “new vetting procedures to close security gaps and a more risk-based approach” had been implemented. This was after former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson directed American embassies to double down on visas and “increase scrutiny of visa applicants for potential security and non-security ineligibilities.” It is currently estimated that one SIV applicant is killed every 36 hours of fighting against terrorism in support of U.S. troops.  

Though the security of America is the top priority in our policy and decision-making processes, we must also keep our political promises. When Congress passed the Afghan Allies Protection Act of 2009, we promised personal protection to Afghan nationals in exchange for their service and assistance of U.S. military actions within the country. Some of these roles consist of linguists, engineers, cultural advisors and soldiers. According to Scott Cooper, Director of National Security Outreach for Human Rights First, their participation remains vital for our intelligence collection efforts and the continued pursuit of peace in the region.   

Jawad Khawari 2018. Sacramento, CA

We must do better, balancing compassion and national security, as we remember those who have served alongside us. In January 2018, Jawad became World Relief Sacramento’s Afghan Cultural Advisor, acting as a liaison between staff and the refugees and immigrants we serve. He remains in contact with many of his “friends and brothers” who are still in Afghanistan waiting for their visas to be processed and the chance to experience what Ghulam had hoped for: a life of peace. 

*Source - Department of State

Resources Used

https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/afghan-special-immigrant-visa-program

https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/how-trump-administrations-executive-orders-refugees-harm-our-iraqi-wartime-allies

https://travel.state.gov/content/dam/visas/SIVs/Afghan_SIV_report_July2017.pdf

http://www.wrapsnet.org/siv-iraqi-syrian-p-2/

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/07/trump-immigration-crackdown-visas/565949/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/stuartanderson/2018/09/20/trump-official-announces-controversial-new-limits-on-refugees/#5910bf2f410a

https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/talalansari/afghanistan-immigrant-war-visa-trump-siv

October 25, 2018

World Relief Sacramento works with and maintains relationships with nearly 50 apartment complexes in the Sacramento region, predominately the Arden-Archade area insuring a smooth and safe transition to life in the USA.

 

September 18, 2018

This week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced in a press conference the Administration’s refugee policy for Fiscal Year 2019, which includes a decision to lower the refugee ceiling to 30,000 people – lower, even, than Fiscal Year 2018’s historically low cap of 45,000. With just two weeks left in Fiscal Year 2018, the U.S. has admitted fewer than 21,000 refugees, which makes clear that the administration sees this ceiling merely as a maximum, not as a goal.

Historically, California has received more refugee arrivals than any other state, and World Relief Sacramento has welcomed some of the largest percentages of refugees within the twenty-office network across the USA. We are proud that Sacramentans, donors, volunteers, church partners, our Mayor Steinberg, and friends like the Sacramento Republic FC have had such a welcoming posture towards our refugee neighbors. We are grateful that our city has a long legacy of hospitality.  

 

 

Lowering the refugee ceiling to 30,000 contradicts both our spiritual mandate to welcome the stranger and a longstanding American commitment to provide safe harbor to some of the world’s most vulnerable, persecuted and oppressed people. This commitment to provide refuge makes our nation and our communities stronger. World Relief CEO Tim Breene said, “This repeated reduction in the number of refugees allowed into the U.S. is incredibly troubling. Not only is it a continuation of a series of unprecedented attacks on our American values and on the humanitarian nature of the refugee resettlement program, but it falls far short of helping the large number of vulnerable people around the world. This is just another step in the systematic dismantling of a program that exists to shelter people who need our support and protection. America can do better.”
 

As the United States aims to put its values and interests first, it must not forget that offering freedom from oppression is a crucible of its founding. Resettling refugees is a way that the U.S. can live out its core values and ensure a more stable and democratic world. 
 

As these numbers continue to drop, however, World Relief Sacramento remains optimistic and uniquely poised to continue to both welcome newly arrived refugees and also pivot to serving the thousands of refugee families, women and children here in our community, our organizational goal being to help them integrate and thrive. Learn more about our new initiatives here

 

August 21, 2018

So here is a no-brainer. 

Looking for a way to support our refugee clients on their path to self-sufficiency and enjoy a night out with some of the best pizza in the region? With only one month away from Pedal to Resettle, our Napa-area cycling fundraiser for refugee empowerment, this is probably the easiest and tastiest way to help out. 

We’re excited to partner with Chicago Fire Pizza for the next month. They’ll be hosting fundraiser nights at their Roseville, Palladio (Folsom), and Midtown locations. On these fundraiser nights, 20% of dine-in and takeout orders will go directly towards Pedal to Resettlehow easy is that!

It doesn't get much easier; pick a Chicago Fire location and date. Mention World Relief - Pedal to Resettle, and present the location flier or show your server the flier on your phone. The fliers for all three fundraising nights and locations are attached below. 

 

Mark your calendars, bring your friends, your family, and your appitite!

August 27th in Roseville 

September 10th at the Folsom Palladio

September 17th in Midtown

 

Make sure to thank, call out, post phots and follow @EatChicagoFire on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

August 17, 2018

“My name is Ara. I am 37 years old, and I am from Afghanistan.” She wears a floral print blouse and a black headscarf. She has just finished that day’s Vocational English class, which meets Monday through Thursday for four-hour sessions at World Relief Sacramento.  

An interpreter is present, and when asked to tell her story, Ara switches from hesitant English to quick Dari. In some parts of Afghanistan, she explains, arranged marriages are common. She was twelve when she met and married her husband, who was many years her senior. After they married, the couple left Afghanistan and moved to Iran for safety. Together they had a son. Her expression, throughout the telling, remains serious and guarded. Life, she says, was difficult.   

After twelve years of marriage, she divorced her husband and returned to Afghanistan. A young divorcee with a child in tow, Ara received at best a chilly reception. Not long after returning home, her husband declared that he wanted custody of their son. She knew the court would side with the child’s father; so again, she left home, this time fleeing with her son to Turkey.  

She spent several years in Turkey, struggling to survive in a huge, foreign city. In 2015, she and her son received their refugee visas. They were to be resettled Sacramento, CA through World Relief. Upon arrival, she was greeted by her assigned caseworker, who along with other World Relief staff, helped Ara during her first 90 days in Sacramento with housing, social security card applications, medical appointments, and school enrollment for her son. With all of their basic needs met, it was time for her to find work. For several years, she did all sorts of jobs, mostly in restaurants and hotels as a dishwasher or housekeeper.  

She wanted more. Her goal was to run a day care out of her home. In order to do so, however, she needed to learn English. World Relief partnered with LONA, a San Francisco based non-profit, to help cover her expenses for six months so she could attend World Relief’s ten week Vocational English class. On her first day, she was greeted by a familiar face. Her former caseworker was now her ESL teacher.  

In addition to being determined, Ara is generous and constantly thinking of others. She wants to set up a day care in her home and show other women how to do the same. The daycare, however, is just the beginning. Her dream, she says, would be to build a community center where Afghan and Arabic women can learn English, make crafts, share skills and ultimately sell what they make. Too expensive, she said, waving the dream away, but her dream sparked an idea.  

While World Relief does not have a community center, it does have a spare apartment in a nearby apartment complex. The furnished apartment serves as temporary housing for families. In June, World Relief launched two pilot programs designed for women, using the apartment as a teaching and meeting space. One meets on Tuesdays and Fridays, where the women gather for social activities and for a brief ESL lesson. Another is an ESL class that meets Mondays and Wednesdays.  

On Tuesdays and Fridays, the sparsely furnished apartment transforms into a lively gathering space that feels homey and warm with 10 to 15 Afghan women and several World Relief staff and volunteers present. So far, the group has made earrings, gone on a trip to the fabric store, baked American and Afghan cookies, and started a macramé project. They have learned to spell their names and say their birthdays in English, and how to call 911 for emergencies. During the fourth week, the program coordinator asked the group what projects and ESL lessons they had liked. A woman who during the first few meetings had barely spoken said that she liked knowing how to spell her name and address. Another woman said, “I like everyone here.” Another, more exuberant member of the group agreed, and added, “I like everything!”   

On Mondays and Wednesdays, the group is smaller, fitting on the apartment’s two sectionals. The ESL instructors demonstrate greetings the class has learned with an inflatable ball. “How are you?” the instructor asks the co-instructor and throws her the ball. “I’m fine, how are you?” the co-instructor says, tossing the ball back. They repeat this simple exchange several times before the instructor moves on to the next greeting. “How are you?” tossing the ball to the co-teacher, who with dramatic flourish, answers, “I’m tired. How are you?” With equal gusto, the teacher says, “I’m tired” and slumps in her seat. After observing for several minutes, the women join in the exercise, some following the instructors’ leads and slumping or straining their voices when they catch the ball and answer, “I’m tired. How are you?”   

There are not whiteboards, no handouts, no pencils or notebooks. The curriculum is designed for pre-literate learners. “We move on,” the instructor explains, “When the group is ready.” The students, not the teachers, set the pace. In the first week of class, a very pregnant woman joined them. The instructors assumed she would not be able to finish the course, and after the second week, she gave birth to her son. Traditionally, Afghan women stay home to be taken care of by their families for forty days after giving birth. However, the woman came back with her son to class just ten days after his birth. She wanted to resume learning English as soon as she could. Her return gave the group a chance to learn a multi-syllabic tongue twister of a word: “Con-gra-tu-la-tions!” 

World Relief hopes to continue to build on Ara's dream and serve more women across Sacramento County. Once these pilots wrap up, they hope to launch several more in different refugee dense apartment complexes. They have started a crowdfunding campaign to help fund future efforts. As Ara puts it, all women should have the chance to learn, the chance to work if they want to, and the chance to be self-sufficient in their new country. 

For the sake of confidentiality, names in this story have been changed have been changed. 

August 2, 2018

The Fate of the National Refugee Program is at Stake - Act Now

Usually, these emails are about the happenings of World Relief Sacramento—new programs we’re launching, upcoming events, and ways to get involved. This is not one of those emails. Based on recent events and projections about the US refugee program, we believe it is urgent that you know how you can speak up on behalf of those fleeing violence and persecution. Proverbs 31:8 tells us to “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.”

At this critical moment, we ask you to stand with the vulnerable and to advocate for their rights. Yesterday, the New York Times published an article regarding the future of the refugee program. Since the program’s inception in 1980 under President Reagan, the President issues a determination number or ceiling of how many refugees are allowed to enter the United States. Historically, our country has led the world in helping those who are fleeing persecution. After this past year, the Presidential Determination Number was already set at its lowest point in history at 45,000. As it stands, however, the actual number arriving this year will be around 20,000. Currently, the United States no longer leads the world in demonstrating its willingness to offer a safe haven to the vulnerable.

It is believed that the number for next year will come out very soon—possibly this week. The new Determination number is predicted to be AT MOST 25,000.
 

In a time when the number of global refugees is at a historic high of 25 million, the United States should be leading and increasing, not reducing the number of refugees welcome.


Speaking up DOES make a difference. As the stories of families separated at the U.S. southern border came out, people advocated on behalf of vulnerable children and families. The government listened and made policy changes that ultimately led to reunifications and the halting of separations. Your voice matters.

Realistically, the United States is ready, willing, and able to handle 75,000 refugees – significantly higher than the proposed number.


How you can advocate:

1. Encourage calls to the White House – 202-456-1111 with the message above

2. Call congressional representatives with the same message

3. Blast social media, or emails to your mailing lists to raise their voices to the WH, Congress (who must eventually be consulted), and on social media (hashtag suggestions: #Welcome75K #RefugeesWelcome #WithRefugees #WeWelcomeRefugees)


For the sake of the vulnerable,

Kerry Ham
Office Director
kham@wr.org

July 31, 2018

In July, the Immigration Legal Services (ILS) program offered DACA renewal services for the first time to over 60 individuals through volunteer-staffed workshops.

In 1998, Brandon Vega Ayala came to the U.S. at the age of two. His mother decided to flee an abusive relationship and her family saved the money to help her and her son cross the border without authorization. In doing so, Brandon became one of the so-called "DREAMers," or undocumented youth brought into the country as young children.

In his early years in the U.S., Brandon moved often around the Sacramento area with his mother. They eventually established themselves in the Rosemont area and he attended Hiram Johnson High School. "My mom told me I had to be careful, that I didn't have papers," Brandon explained. He participated in numerous clubs and sports in school, but his lack of status thwarted his dreams. "I planned to join the U.S. military, but my immigration status prevented me from enlisting."

When the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was announced in 2012, Brandon was a sophomore. The new program provided protection from deportation and a work permit that was renewable every two years. He filed for DACA and has renewed it ever since.

Today, Brandon lives a full life, in part owing to his DACA protections. Last December, he married Paulina, a friend from high school. He works 50 hours a week at a grocery store while taking college classes on the side to complete programs in business management and electrical engineering.

Last September, President Trump ended the DACA program and observers hoped the action would spur a permanent legislative solution for DREAMers, but a new law has not materialized. While several federal judges ordered that the program remain open for renewal applications, it was expected another conflicting judicial decision in August 2018 might lead to the DACA program's permanent termination. Advocates recommended DACA-holders renew while it was still possible.

Brandon wanted to renew and had friends who had been going to private attorneys and paying over $1,500 to file renewal applications, an amount he couldn't easily spare. His wife researched resources to renew and found a listing for World Relief Sacramento's first free DACA renewal workshop.

"The ILS program has moved into a new direction with these workshops to help meet the tremendous need in the community," shared Ted Oswald, the ILS manager at World Relief Sacramento. Thanks to a California state grant, the ILS program covers the $495 application fee for income-eligible individuals like Brandon, and prepares, reviews, packages, and submits applications, all for completely free. The workshops have been a success. "Over just three evenings, our small ILS team's efforts have been multiplied by 10 amazing volunteers to serve over 60 DACA-recipients."

Brandon attended the inaugural workshop with his wife and expressed his gratitude to the ILS team by email afterward. "The workshop touched my wife and I with your team's kindness and dedication in helping me," Brandon wrote. "Considering the political backlashes we receive daily, this has brought hope and "relief" into our lives."

 

 

June 22, 2018

On June 20th, World Relief Sacramento was pleased to partner with the Sacramento Republic FC and the Office of Mayor Darrell Steinberg in a community-wide World Refugee Day celebration. Together we paused to commemorate the strength, courage and perseverance of the refugees within our region and to celebrate Sacramento’s response to the global refugee crisis. 

 

We anticipated the day would be, “an opportunity for both the Sacramento community and the refugee community to enjoy an evening filled with family fun and illustrate how we are better together,” commented Kerry Ham, Executive Director of World Relief Sacramento. However, we could not have predicted the story of Ghazwan Fadhil and Ahmed Khayyafi. 

 

It had been 20 years since the two had seen each other at their shared high school in Iraq, before they reunited through captain Ali Alazzawi’s tournament team. Khayyafi, visiting from New Zealand, happened to be in California for the week and was invited to play alongside Alazzawi’s team who participates in weekly pick-up games with friends.  

 

Fadhil, who played soccer professionally in Iraq before emigrating to the United States 10 years ago, said the soccer tournament, “embodied the spirit of the sport,” and emphasized, “people from different cultures [and] different communities are meeting today.” 

 

With over 1,000 people in attendance, the event brought much needed recognition and awareness to the more than 10,000 refugees who have become Sacramentans over the last four years. Mark Shetler, Executive Pastor of River City Christian Church and World Relief Sacramento volunteer, commented, “Events like these provide an opportunity for bridges to be built between refugee families and the greater Sacramento community. The goal is not that we can coexist in the same region, but rather that we get acquainted with one another through something as simple as a soccer match and begin to develop authentic friendships with one another, creating one united community.”  

Unity is what the more than 65 million people who the United Nations is currently counting as forcibly displaced need. With the fear of refugees increasing and arrival numbers dropping across the United States the celebration and opportunity to play soccer next to so many other refugees and immigrants made team captain Ali Alazzawi feel proud. “We want to show everyone that we are productive people and a strong community,” he said. 

 

Alazzawi served as a doctor in Iraq before Al Qaida threatened his life and he was forced to flee to Jordan before being resettled in America. Unable to practice medicine in Sacramento, Alazzawi has instead partnered with local nonprofits and worked for the UC Davis Prenatal Screening Program. Though Alazzawi describes his integration into the U.S. as initially traumatic he has since become a U.S. citizen and a leader in his community. 

 

Sacramento’s World Refugee Day Soccer Tournament was created for people like Ghazwan Fadhil, Ali Alazzawi, the thousands they represent locally, and the millions they represent internationally. The day’s activities took place at Papa Murphy’s Park, which was donated for the day by the Sacramento Republic FC and made possible by the generosity of Jesus Culture Sacramento. Twelve teams made up of players from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Ukraine, and California’s own Refugee Programs Bureau suited up in the practice jerseys of the Sacramento Republic FC under the guidance of Tournament Director Danny Chaffey.  

 

After a moving speech imploring the refugee families in attendance to never doubt their importance and influence in the city of Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg introduced the final two teams – Team Ukraine and the Afghan Warriors. After a well-matched game with impressive plays from both teams, Team Ukraine secured the tournament trophy with a 2-1 victory.  

In a special ceremonial presentation, lead by Sacramento Republic FC COO Ben Gumpert during halftime of the club’s home match against St. Louis FC on June 23rd, Team Ukraine was awarded the World Refugee Day Cup and individual medals in the presence of over 10,000 match attendees. The presentation included a highlight video from World Refugee Day, showcasing the soccer tournament, YMCA Kids’ Zone, food trucks, family carnival and vendor fair. 

 

“Our goal and our responsibility as a club is to use our platform to help empower and bring together our city, so we’re grateful for this opportunity to make a difference for such a worthy cause,” said Gumpert. 

 

World Relief Sacramento’s partnership with the Sacramento Republic FC was a great success and we look forward to continued efforts to raise awareness for the refugees in our community in the future. Both organizations are proud to be located in the most welcoming city in the United States, and though arrival numbers have been drastically cut and are forecast to be even further reduced in FY2019 World Relief Sacramento remains committed to welcoming the refugees arriving in our city and supporting their long-term success and integration into our community. 

 

 

World Refugee Day 2018 from World Relief Sacramento on Vimeo.

May 15, 2018

We hosted a volunteer appreciation block party, transforming the nondescript alley behind our office into a festive space decked out with string lights, gold confetti, balloons and colorful table settings. In addition to his official Director title, Kerry Ham was also the event’s unofficial grill master. He spent most of the day preparing chicken and steak for the 100+ staff and volunteers in attendance. In case you have not seen our office map, our staff hails from all over the world. So naturally, the menu was a potluck style international feast. Afghan musicians entertained our guests, children played corn hole and other outdoor games, and most importantly, staff were able to express their appreciation for and connect with volunteers.

Volunteering at World Relief is a unique experience. Good Neighbor Team volunteers, for example, commit to walking alongside and supporting refugee families for six months. During the block party, we had an open mic session where volunteers shared stories about working with refugee families, and most of these stories were less about the ways they helped our clients and more about the ways our new refugee neighbors changed their lives.

Thank you, volunteers! For the countless miles you have logged taking our clients to appointments, for the late night airport pickups to welcome our families, for your donations that help us furnish apartments, for opening up your homes, for your time, energy and support. We could not do our work without you!

 

 

 

November 3, 2017

World Relief Sacramento | Bikes

Proximity to employment can influence a range of economic and social outcomes, from local fiscal health to the employment prospects of residents- particularly low-income, minority workers and especially newly arrived refugees yet to gain a drivers license or car.

As simple as it sounds, a bike can help find and sustain employment, cut trips to the grocery store in half, get to medical care or access city resources—all vital things, and all so easy for those who have a means of transportation to take for granted. Biking also offers physical and mental wellness benefits to a community where both are rare.

Navigating public transportation in any new city can be daunting and Sacramento is no exception. Which is why we at World Relief Sacramento are proud to partner with locals and like-minded individuals and organizations like Cycles4Hope

For the head-of-household in a newly arrived refugee family, owning a bike is essential and Cycles4Hope have donated over 250 bikes to World Relief Sacramento this past year.