One nonprofit needs volunteers to repair 40 kids bikes for refugees. Another agency could use cash gift cards.
By Ben Watanabe Monday, May 16, 2022 1:30am
Refugees fleeing violence in Afghanistan and Ukraine arrive in Snohomish County with what they can carry.
That means they don’t have a set of wheels, or a driver’s license.
But they have to get around like everyone else.
“When they left the country, they brought whatever they could carry on their back. That’s what they have,” Refugee and Immigrant Services Northwest executive director Van Dinh-Kuno said. “When they arrive to our county, they all need transportation.”
It can take two to three months for a newly arrived refugee proficient in English to get a driver’s license, Dinh-Kuno said. For those who don’t speak English well, it can take a year.
Plus they need time to get a job and save money to buy a vehicle.
The many Afghan Refugees we helped was another day of learning for all. How we elevate and improve the Refugees' condition teaches us how to build community, which starts with love. This important ingredient is present in the mix of every Friday. Volunteers, who give much caring, time, donations, and personal help on Fridays and beyond, receive the fruits of kindness in return: lives made a little better, hope given.
We greeted 26 families in all! Though 38 adults with 23 of their children came to the Center, our 10 Volunteers packed provisions for many at-home spouses and children: a grand total of about 110 refugees served (more if newborns didn't make it in the tally)!
Hygiene products remain most needed. Necessities like diapers, laundry detergent, deodorant and sanitary pads are too expensive for families without an income yet. Weekly supplies of underwear and socks to give is a challenge for us, so we know it's near impossible for our Visitors to buy, if we can't furnish them.
Then there's the most satisfying for Refugees of all ages and Volunteers: bicycles with helmets, computers and sewing machines! Not just for utilitarian or fun uses, but for attaining freedom and opportunities in their new communities.
In 1896, women's rights activist Susan B Anthony, said “Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel.”
I share that sentiment! We're uplifted every time a little girl, teen or her Mom leaves with a bicycle and a happy Dad who knows they will be welcome cycling in our communities. ~Pamela Van Swearingen, Coordinator
Neither Easter nor Ramadan slowed the stream of new Afghan Refugee parents and children. We were ready with provisions for Friday’s 20 families comprising 88 refugees of 42 adults and their 46 children. Met by 15 Volunteers, SCM Founder Rita and Translator Khayam, 32 parents with 14 kids came in the Center to receive lots of hygiene essentials, school supplies, computers, sewing machines and surprise Eid Celebration kits for children.
While we offer loads of clothes, when I think of the collections of “hygiene essentials” and the “Donors” (individual, nonprofit and corporate), it floods me with gratitude. This is kindness pouring out week after week because people really care about the plight and needs of the Refugees.
Our essentials for whole families: diapers; underwear; socks; baby wipes, wash, lotion and shampoo; adult body wash and bar soap; feminine sanitary pads; shampoo and conditioner; brushes and combs; toothpaste, toothbrushes and floss; deodorant; razors; reader glasses; nail clippers; cleaning products – bottles of liquid dish and laundry detergent, and cleanser. Sometimes we even have nail polish, cosmetics or jewelry to make the day a little brighter for the women.
This Hygiene Corner bulges with special extras: handmade quilts for the children, fabric “dolls for hope”; a big assortment of school supplies, color books, and often backpacks. Just past this station is a large toy area that includes stuffed animals and books that entertain children while parents get their “toys” – bicycles and helmets, laptops, or sewing machines, notions and fabric, depending on what Donors have sent us.
Committed Donors are Bicycle Rescue for Youth that serves Maple Valley and Issaquah, Covington Kiwanis Club, Sharing Wheels from Everett, Mel Nason’s Holy Spokes and Harvey’s Bike Shop in Lynnwood. Essentials First often helps us with hygiene products and joined in furnishing Eid Celebrations kits. For desperately needed laptops, Starbucks donated generously. Early learning KidsCentre in Seattle has showered us with school supplies and backpacks.
Equally impressive are places of worship who regularly contact us with help. This giving is matched by individuals who surprise us by quietly bringing needed items and gift cards, so we can replenish to meet the needs of all new arrival Afghan Refugees every week.
We can only say Thank You, Thank You to all who give and volunteer. Don’t forget them. And, don’t forget the needs of the Refugees!
Despite Spring vacations, 16 Volunteers came to FCUMC to help 21 Refugee families. Our great Interpreter, Mohammad, facilitated the busy day of 26 adults and 10 children at the Clothing & Hygiene Center. Including spouses and little ones at home, we provided essentials for 37 adults and their 62 children. A total of 99 new arrival Afghan Refugees served!
It’s relief to give this support to share hope and friendliness. We now know many harrowing stories of unimaginable escape and long journeys from Afghanistan. All Refugees left numerous family members, their lives, identities and possessions behind while facing complete uncertainty.
Our work persists, thanks to wonderful donations – clothes, shoes, jackets, new socks and underwear, hygiene products, children’s quilts, toys, school supplies and even laptops. Sewing machines and bicycles are low. But more offers to replenish our supply of these special items may arrive in time for next Friday, when the Refugees’ holy observance of Ramadan nears the end on May 1st.
Just a quick update on our refugee assistance activities from our volunteer coordinator Pamela:
Just a quick summary of the really busy day yesterday, thanks to 22 Volunteers who stayed part or all of the four hours and pre-post opening. We served 30 Families in all. A total of 77 Refugees came to the Center, 43 adults accompanied by 14 children. Including all the spouses and children who had to stay at home, these families comprise 118 Refugees whose day and necessities we improved!
Our added bicycles, computers and sewing machines with sewing notions and fabric are so helpful for the Refugees. I just hope we continue getting these donations to offer with our core essentials. We gave out 21 bikes with new helmets for Adults and Kids, 10 laptops, and four sewing machines.
Go Team Go! Thank you, Pamela
If you have a sewing machine, sewing supplies, or bicycles you want to donate, please reach out to us so we can coordinate a drop off. Thank you for your continued support!
The concerted commitment of Fairwood Community United Methodist Church and SCM Medical Missions has grown to meet the needs in helping the stream of newly arriving Afghan Refugees. We’ve expanded our response to meet our new neighbors’ long journey getting settled – get a residence, find beds, a few chairs and dinner table with dishes, acquire clothes and basic hygiene essentials, as they also look for jobs absent computers yet. Caring Volunteers meet these brothers and sisters and their tender little ones to ease the way and give hope.
Friday we assisted 21 adult Refugees from 18 families accompanied by 11 cute children. The impact was big since the families represent 35 adults and 48 children. Friday and our week long planning by at least 22 Volunteers paid off. We gave each bags and bags of hygiene items, clothes and shoes, toys, stuffed animals, books, school supplies, colorful hand made quilts for the children, toddler chairs, jewelry for the females, and the best surprise of all, sewing machines, and bicycles with helmets for adults and children! Community giving begets more community giving showing us the humanity out there we’ re all trying to share! As word spreads weekly, more hygiene items appear thanks to anonymous gift cards, other charities, individuals and churches. Somehow we manage to restock, so we ensure Refugees get the basic items their families need.
The appreciation of our visitors leaves heart warming impressions. Parents are grateful to get their family’s many toiletries, diapers and new cotton underwear for everybody. Dads and Moms are touched when we roll up a pretty quilt for each child. Sweet children play at the toy center as we catch their smiles. Toddlers readily reach out and hug the soft, fabric handmade Dolls for Hope. The grand surprises are the bicycles and sewing machines that create some happiness to improve the Refugees’ days ahead.
Also, the Covington Kiwanis Club is adding to their big bicycle delivery on Wednesday. 25 backpacks, many new all weather, fleece lined jackets in black, gray and blue for adults and kids (all sizes), and school supplies! And, Issaquah Women’s Club reached out this weekend to me about a Service project they will do in April for us. I have to find out if UMC Pastor and Council expects us to finish at end of April or wants to extend longer. More Later. Have a good week as you free people from tyrants!! ~Pamela