Local Group Supporting Refugee Resettlement Aims to Raise $10K
Responding to a large cut in federal funding for refugee resettlement, the local All Faith Alliance for Refugees (AFAR) is teaming up with choirs from area places of worship to put on a benefit concert to be held at the University Lutheran Church on Saturday, March 16, starting at 7 p.m.
The goal is to raise $10,000 to benefit St. Vincent Catholic Charities’ (STVCC’s) ongoing refugee resettlement and education programs in the area.
Donations can be made at the concert, but organizers have also set up an online donation page for people who can’t attend the concert or who would prefer to donate via credit card. That is accessible thorugh this link: http://bit.ly/RefugeeBenefitConcert.
The Reverend Alice Townley, Assistant Pastor at The Presbyterian Church of Okemos and one of the founders of AFAR, explained in a telephone interview with ELi that AFAR was looking for a concrete way to help when the Reverend John Schleicher, the Interim Pastor at Grace Lutheran, suggested using the musical talent that was already available through local congregations’ musical programming.
Grace Lutheran’s musical director Loretta Cetkovik stepped in to assist, and now there are twelve sets of choirs and musicians confirmed for the event.
Judi Harris, Refugee Services Program Director for STVCC, spoke with ELi by phone to explain why local refugee agencies are in such a funding crunch.
Harris told ELi that much of the funding for refugee services comes from the federal level, and it is a “per capita” system, meaning that it is tied directly to the number of refugees entering the country. She explained that, under the current administration, the number of refugees allowed to enter the country has dropped dramatically. (Read more on that from the Washington Post.)
Historically, Harris said, STVCC has assisted between 500 and 600 refugees per year. But last year, there were only 157 arrivals, mostly from Congo.
Settling refugees into a new country is a multi-year process, with some aid programs, such as employment services, continuing for years after arrival. So, the drop in federal dollars has left the agency short of funds to help people already in the country.
Harris told ELi that many refugee resettlement programs around the country have closed due to lack of funds, and that that will leave a gap in services if federal policies change and more refugees are allowed to settle in the area again.
Harris also said that everyone at STVCC feels “humbled and grateful” to be selected as the benefactor for next week’s interfaith concert.
The venue for next Saturday’s concert, University Lutheran Church, is located at 1020 South Harrison Road in East Lansing. Donations will be collected at the door, and refreshments will be served after the concert.
Photo by Mark Doyle of the interfaith refugee prayer vigil in Feb. 2017; read more.
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