5. July 2012 16:04
Busy worrying about keeping a roof over their heads and food in their bellies, most refugees don't have the luxury of taking care of their dental health. Lutheran Social Services' Refugee Services program in Grand Rapids hosts a mobile dental clinic twice a year to serve refugee children. A few weeks ago, the dentist took care of 37 kids, with the help of interpreters for Burmese, Bhutanese and Congolese families. Medicaid pays for the dental exams. Families also got to visit the "store," a room where the staff keep items donated for the refugees. Everyone went home with linens, clothing, kitchen or bathroom supplies or toys and games for the kids. (In the photo, Sobit Parsai, 11, from Bhutan, waits for his dental X-ray.)
12. March 2012 13:46
Mark Stutrud, president and CEO of Lutheran Social Services of Michigan, has joined the board of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services (LIRS), a national organization based in Baltimore that contracts with the federal government to resettle refugees. LIRS works through 27 state and local affiliates, including Lutheran Social Services of Michigan, to provide services to refugees. LIRS is also very active in advocating for policies and legislation that uphold the rights and dignity of newcomers to our country.
Lutheran Social Services also serves as the Michigan affiliate for Episcopal Migration Ministries.
Last year, Lutheran Social Services resettled more than 1,000 refugees. They were primarily Chaldeans (Christians from Iraq) but also people fleeing war and persecution in Burma, Bhutan and several African countries. Lutheran Social Services provides help with paperwork and documents, housing, English language training and job placement. Most refugees are self-supporting within six months of their arrival.
9. February 2012 10:04
Jacob Atem, one of the "Lost Boys of Sudan" who was helped by Lutheran Social Services' refugee foster care program, is raising funds to equip a health clinic in his native village, Maar. Jacob was only 6 when he joined other Lost Boys fleeing from civil war in Sudan. They walked for months across the desert to find refuge in Kenya. Jacob arrived in the U.S. as a refugee in 2001 and became a U.S. citizen in 2009. Now he is a Ph.D. student at the University of Florida and president of the Southern Sudan Healthcare Organization (SSHCO). The organization has built a small clinic in Maar and now hopes to be able to ship a container full of medical supplies there from Chicago. Here's a short video where Jacob talks about his hopes for the clinic.
8. December 2011 11:12
As they have since 1984, the families of students at Cedar Crest Academy in Clarkston will “adopt” some of the families being served by Lutheran Social Services of Michigan at Christmas, providing them a bounty of gifts. This year, the Cedar Crest families will travel to Lutheran Social Services’ Refugee Services training center in Madison Heights on Saturday, Dec. 10, laden with gifts for seven Iraqi refugee families. The school families will meet the families they’ve “adopted,” share a pizza lunch and then deliver the gifts to the refugees’ homes.
“We bring one wrapped gift for each of the children with us to the party and leave the rest of the gifts in our cars, because there’s a lot,” said Karen Jbara, whose three children attended Cedar Crest Academy, an independent private pre-K – 8th grade school. “Before you know it, the kids are kicking around a soccer ball or working on a puzzle or game together. It provides an opportunity for the children to bond and have something in common.”
The Cedar Crest families enjoy learning more about the refugee families, sometimes with the help of an interpreter. “It’s especially educational for the children,” said Jbara. “It’s humbling for them to realize that these people have needs for things like sheets and pots and pans that are very basic.”
Cedar Crest has been adopting families for Christmas since the school opened. “The opportunity to share our blessings with local families is valuable to us,” said school director Bette Moen. “How proud our students are of the mounting heap of needed items in their classroom, which will disappear into good hands. For the youngest of us, it is an unknown story to learn the difference between ‘needs’ and ‘wants.’ Oh, the lessons to be learned!”
4. October 2011 15:21
Lutheran Social Services of Michigan is expanding its Refugee School Impact Program from Southeastern Michigan to Ingham and Kent counties. The State of Michigan has renewed Lutheran Social Services’ contract to provide the service in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties and has granted the organization new contracts to serve Ingham and Kent. The contracts will be effective on November 1.
The Refugee School Impact Program helps students and their parents adjust to the American school system. The program also helps teachers and administrators understand the unique challenges faced by refugee families as they adjust to an unfamiliar culture. Program activities include English as a second language instruction, after-school tutorials, programs that encourage high school completion and full participation in school activities, after-school and/or summer clubs and activities, parent involvement programs, bilingual/bicultural counseling, interpreter services and more.
The Refugee School Impact Program is funded by the Office of Refugee Resettlement in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through grants to states serving refugees.
In addition to Refugee School Impact services, Lutheran Social Services also offers refugee resettlement services and refugee employment services. The organization served 4,675 refugees in fiscal 2011 through offices in Southfield, Lansing, Grand Rapids and Battle Creek, with satellite offices in Madison Heights, Sterling Heights and Dearborn.
20. June 2011 10:29
Today, June 20, is World Refugee Day. Refugees are people who have been forced to leave their homelands because of war or persecution; they arrive in the United States with very little. Please contact your U.S. Congressman and ask him or her to join Senator Carl Levin in co-sponsoring the Refugee Protection Act of 2011. Take action here: http://capwiz.com/lssm/issues/alert/?alertid=50730691.
13. June 2011 16:41
Here is a wonderful video about a generous landlord, Julio Puzzuoli, who is helping Episcopal Migration Ministries and its affiliate, Lutheran Social Services of Michigan, provide low-cost housing to new refugees: http://www.vimeo.com/24183319.
9. March 2011 17:37
“Today marks the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day,” said LSSM’s Dana Doll. A hundred years ago, more than a million men and women attended rallies supporting women’s rights to vote, to hold public office, to work and to be allowed vocational training, plus a call to end discrimination against women on the job. The largest gathering involved 30,000 people.
Lutheran Social Services of Michigan hosted a gathering at the Ladies Literary Club in Grand Rapids on Tuesday, March 8, 2011 to celebrate women around the world, especially local refugee women, and their efforts to bring an end to war for the protection of their children.
The evening program included interviews of two female refugees -- one a new business owner from Haiti and the other a recent arrival in West Michigan from Democratic Republic of Congo -- who know the hardships women face. Local recording artist Brie Stoner, who grew up as a missionary kid in Spain and has worked with women from North Africa, shared some of her music of compassion and hope.
Those in attendance finished the evening by marching together holding candles to the blue pedestrian bridge over the Grand River for a group photo with their signed banner. The picture will be gathered with more than a hundred other second annual "Join Me On the Bridge" events around the world, posted on the website of Women for Women.
For the full story about this evening event, click here. More photos from this event can be viewed by clicking on this link.
14. February 2011 10:14
The Refugee Services program of Lutheran Social Services of Michigan in Grand Rapids is honoring refugee women at an event March 8 celebrating the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day. Participants at "Join Me On the Bridge" will meet downtown at 5 p.m. at (venue change) Calvin College’s Ladies Literary Club, 61 Sheldon Blvd. SE, then march to the Fulton Street Bridge. A group photo will be taken and posted online to with photos of dozens of other gatherings around the world.
At the Ladies Literary Club in Grand Rapids, people will enjoy special music by local artist Brie Stoner, hear the survival story of Florence Bish, a refugee from Congo, and help decorate a banner for use in the march. "Join Me On the Bridge" was created by Women for Women International, whose mission is "helping women survivors of war rebuild their lives." Last year's event involved more than 20,000 women in 108 events on four continents, like the one that took place last year in Sarajevo, the capital and largest city of Bosnia and Herzegovina (in photo, left). The Grand Rapids event is funded in part by a grant from the North Kent Chapter, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans.
For more information about the event, contact Chris Cavanaugh at firstname.lastname@example.org or (616) 356-1934.
To read a Grand Rapids Press article with more details about this Mar. 8 event, and plus information about a separate related event the next day, Mar. 9, both sponsored by LSSM, click here.
23. December 2010 10:10
The Chaldean American Student Association (CASA) of Oakland University raised more than $6,400 through donations to make Christmas truly special for the neediest refugee families served by Lutheran Social Services. CASA selected 53 kids, who were each partnered with a “Big Buddy.” Each child received a $60 gift card to Target, and their buddies helped them buy Christmas presents for everyone in their families. Afterwards, the group met at a nearby church to wrap the gifts and enjoy a holiday celebration that included a visit from Santa Claus. Each child received a gift from their wish list and a large stocking filled with goodies. The children also received a new coats and boots for the cold winter that many of them are experiencing for the first time.