From Francy Hotel to Friendly Home <3

Thanks to our new hotel donors; Amway Grand Plaza, Hampton Inn North and soon Baymont Inn with their donation of Queen Mattresses! This is a huge blessing to our Refugee Resettlement program where we resettle over 300 + refugees each year!

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Check out my awesome orange pants ^ ^ ^ ^

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My amazing partner Christina helping load carts of comforters from Amway Grand Plaza into our little van/trailer.

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Donations literally filled our van to the brim! We had to jump out of the way to shut the door. This is such an amazing blessings!

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These are the loads of queen sheets that were donated from Hampton Inn north. Those bags are HEAVY! Where to put them all?!

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We counted over 60+ comforters that were donated…..

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We had to figure out where to put all of them…. Luckily, Ben our AmeriCorps Supervisor was willing to compromise. Good thing he will be safe if an earth quake ever strikes.

I need to shout out to Ashley Captil as well! Around the same time, they donated 1,500sq feet of storage space right next to our office! This is a huge blessing because currently out storage units consists of two small garages that have a limited amount of space to store donations and another small storage unit that holds all of our housing goods. With this new storage unit, we will be able to accept more donations in larger quantities, as well as the mattresses being donated to us by Baymont Inn hotel at the end of this month!

I am so excited to see the change happening at my work since I started last July… I have a few more goals before I finish out my year at Bethany Christian Services with AmeriCorps.

1.) I would like to get a grant for a box truck or one that is donated to us for free!

                      * With a box truck, we will be able to make less trips picking up donations and moving in clients.

2.) I am trying to put together an event for World Refugee Day June 20th. This will be at Celebration Cinema and we will be showing a documentary.

                       * My goal is to recruit enough volunteers to help with the next VISTA’s arriving after I leave. I also would like to bring in awareness and more donations. Hoping this will launch me to meet some organizations who will want to hire me. 🙂

3.) I am hoping to leave behind an organizational process for the next AmeriCorp Vista who will be taking over my position in July.

 

Want more information?! email me at Agilbert@bethany.org

 

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“March Moves You”

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“March Move’s You” 03/15/2014

This month I had the privilege to help put together an event for the AmeriCorps Alumni’s in Grand Rapids Michigan. This event was based on educating other AmeriCorps members and AmeriCorps Alumni’s about the Refugee Resettlement housing process!

I found out about a week before this Somalian family of 9 was going to arrive to our door step. Before putting on this event for the AmeriCorp members, I had to find housing for this many people. This was a challenge because most landlords wouldn’t allow us to put 9 people in a 4 bedroom home. Even if the youngest child was a 2 year old. Along with that I had to make sure the house cost less than $1,200. To put in perspective for you; the 7 children are all under the age of 16, so that means only one person will be working in the family and would have to afford this large amount of rent on a minimum wage.

Praise the Lord we found a house two days before the move in date scheduled for the event!

We had about 15 people involved with the move in process! I sent four people to go grocery shopping to buy about a weeks worth of their ethnic food. I sent a couple people to head to the house to clean the house before we move the furniture in. My supervisor took several strong guys to our storage unit to collect the first load of furniture items, and I stayed back with several ladies putting together the smaller welcome pack items, such as; dishes, bedding items, bathroom items and kitchen items.

All together, the move in went very well! Everyone learned a lot about the resettlement process and are excited to come back to help some more!

If you have any questions or want to learn more about my exciting life with refugees, contact me at agilbert@bethany.org

A Moment to Learn.

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AWARENESS PRESENTATION AT NORTHPOINTE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL 2/14/2014

    February has been a very exciting month in our Refugee Resettlement Program. Several of my co-workers and I were able to bring a Cultural Awareness presentation to Northpointe Elementary school during their chapel hour! A friend of mine teaches at this school and had chosen our program to be the students next Organization to sponsor for the year. Each classroom would work on finding donations from our “Welcome Pack” we give to each Refugee family. The “Welcome Packs” consists of house hold items, such as: bath items, tooth paste, shower gel, cleaning items, kitchen utensils, cooking pans, and bedroom sheets, ect. Our presentation gave me the opportunity to share who a Refugee is and what we do to help them. We talked about how there were many stories in the bible about Refugees just like the ones we showed in the video clip we played. The children were very responsive! I even had a young girl come up front to share their bible verse by memory, “Candy did help though.”  The children became silent when my co-worker and friend Steven came up to share his life story.

Steven was a refugee foster child who fled his home country of Burma when he was only 10 years old. He was separated from his parents during an attack on his village. He is now 23 years old and has never heard from his parents. Steven explained to the children how important it was to have caring people help him when he arrived to the states.

My greatest passion is to share Cultural Awareness to the world! My hope is that Bethany Christian Services and other serving organizations will have the opportunity to share about World issues. I believe with the influence of action to our young people in this generation today, will be an instant flow of change and impact on our future.

If you want to know more or have housing donations to give please contact me at Agilbert@bethany.org

The JOY in giving.

To one… it may be a simple gesture of kindness… to the other… its pure joy.

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I cannot express how thankful I am for BISSELL and Zondervan for donating very essential items for our refugee clients! I’d also like to thank American storage off 36th street for donating a storage unit to house these extra items for a while.

“It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” ― Mother Teresa

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” ― Charles Dickens

“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” ― Winston S. Churchill

Giving takes you out of yourself.

Each week, I average housing 2-3 families/individual refugees a week. I find out two weeks before when they may potentially arrive; at that time, I start looking for housing options for them to live. Our program helps refugees resettle in 3-6 months. So finding a landlord or apartment complex that will lease to us for 6 month is just one of our challenges. The other challenge is the Michigan Fair Housing Law: http://www.michigan.gov/documents/CR_250_fair_housing_76949_7.pdf. Our clients do not have history, background checks or credit. They come over with nothing.

Once I find a house for our clients, the next challenge is finding all of the resources that go in the house. For example: Kitchen items, bathroom, bedroom, living room ect.  We have two small garage storage units and one that is in our office. Each client has $920 when they first arrive and most of that goes towards the housing payments… So that does not leave much for purchasing items to go in the house. That’s why donations are essential.

Finally I want to share my biggest JOY as I do this job… It is walking along side volunteers, donors, co-workers and others who want to give their time to love the foreigner… This job can be very difficult, but at times it is the most fulfilling thing I have ever done! Each person that arrives at the airport has a story… has knowledge and has a need. There is so much we can gain by giving.

Learn more: Agilbert@bethany.org; UNHCR.org; http://www.bethany.org/grandrapids/refugee-resettlement

A Heart that Beats for the Refugee

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Syrian Refugee Children: This is a photo taken by my dear friend Jared Kohler who has been taking photo’s for the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees)
 
There has been over 60,000 refugees who have entered the USA in the past year. Michigan is the 3rd largest state to resettle the most refugees each year. Texas, being the first and California coming in second. Each year, Grand Rapids alone will welcome 600 refugees as our new neighbors. With a billion refugees on average around the world, 1% are able to enter into the doors of America every year.
 
Working through one of the most well known agencies to resettle refugees, I have had the privilege to be on the for front of finding each and every one of these families a safe home. Already been working for Bethany Christian Services through Americorps for the past 6 months, I have resettled almost 200 refugees. This has been a very hard task, yet it has been very rewarding.
 
I believe that this area of the world we are in has been lacking AWARENESS; that these wonderful people are actually arriving at our doorsteps. With the amount of resources and churches in the greater area of Grand Rapids, you’d think this job would be very easy. However, even with all the many churches and non-profits; I continually struggle with getting resources to fill the homes with beds, chairs, tables and blankets. Why spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to send someone overseas when we could be using the whole body of the church and using that money to literally bless the refugee next door to us.
(Food for thought.)
These 600 refugees who enter into Grand Rapids each year arrive with their family, we call each family a case. On average there are less than 300 cases if each person had a least one other person arrive with them on their case. There are 764 listings of churches in the area of Grand Rapids… if only 300 of these churches decided to take one case (family) each year, think how much of an impact that would make?
 
 
Leviticus 19:33-34 and 24:22
– When the alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”
Deuteronomy 10:18-19
– “For the Lord your God…loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

Refugee Resettlement

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Refugee: “One who flees in search of refuge, as in times of war, political oppression, or religious persecution.”

This year will be full of adventure, excitement, hardship and a walk to new experiences. Join me as I share my day to day life of being an Americorp VISTA worker; helping Refugees in my local area Resettle. These refugee’s come over with almost nothing, maybe just a small bag of their belongings. Some may only carry with them a half burned up picture of a loved one; left over from the rubble and destruction of their home after a bombing.

I’d like to share with you the knowledge I have gained, the memories I have cherished and the day to day moments of loving my new neighbors. I hope to educate you on culture, food, countries and political turmoils happening around the world. My joy would be to answer questions and bring awareness, that will ignite a movement in hearts to respond to action. If only it is a voice, you are a powerful connection, a walking vessel to bring hope.

Growing up, the mystery of a stranger would excite me. My parents would lose me in the market, to find me sitting on elderly peoples laps. I would want to know who they were, where they came from and what they were like. You could say I was a strange child, yet, those were the earliest moments I remember having an interest in the culture of people. In church, my heart would sink into an overwhelming pool of desire as my eyes were drawn to the screen in the front of the chapel. Missionaries would show photo’s of a world of people who lived, looked and spoke different from me. I can remember the pictures still in my mind, along with the dream of myself traveling to meet them. I desire to explore life through all the different shoes that walk this world. If we could see each eye, each heart, each place in the world; the knowledge of life, happiness and even pain, then I believe it will help us to love people in a greater capacity. Not just our co-workers or friends, but also our neighbors. Our neighbors who have traveled a long way and have come to our door steps. Getting to know another world may just be the brush that could paint a beautiful tapestry of life to your soul.

 

Learn more: http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49c3646c125.html; http://www.bethany.org/grandrapids/refugee-resettlement; http://www.nationalservice.gov/programs/americorps/americorps-vista