Letter from our President
Greetings from RAP and from the families we serve:
As we begin the new year, it’s fitting that we reflect upon how we serve our mission: to welcome refugees and help them find self-sufficiency while safe-guarding their dignity and uniqueness.
First, we choose welcome. To welcome is to invite the "Other" into community. This involves both love and trust, I think in equal parts, as one cannot display RAP’s level of welcome without these two elements working hand-in-hand.
Then we do what we can to help refugees find self-sufficiency. By self-sufficiency I envision a life that is not fettered to public benefits and other systems telling refugees how to live, and not being able to make their own choices.
Self-sufficiency does not mean that one is not dependent on other people. If we live in community, there will always be interdependence. Self-sufficiency, the way I understand it, means to be able to have autonomy in making decisions about where to live, what to eat, and how to use money.
Finally, we safe-guard refugees’ dignity and uniqueness. We recognize that refugees, like all people, have inherent dignity and deserve respect. Again, this requires both love and trust. Love-- in that we value and respect them and their decisions. And trust that they can and will do for themselves when given the necessary tools and the freedom to make choices. We must respect their ability to set their own goals.
I think this is one of the most challenging parts of our mission. I was in conversation with one RAP member this week who was reflecting on how easy it is to make decisions for the refugees because we think we know what’s best for a prosperous life.
When we come from a perspective of prosperity, it is hard not to jump in and “save the day”. I know I feel compelled to do this all the time! But doing this does not always reflect love and trust. RAP can indeed unravel many of the “Catch-22’s” that refugees are so often forced into when they come to live here in this area of NJ—school challenges, poverty, unemployment, welfare... all of these situations come with their own “Catch-22”-type traps.
Once the refugees are freed from these traps, that’s our time to let them be empowered to set their own goals, make their own choices, to be friends together and live in community with us.
We see this with our refugee friend Patrick, who is happy and just living life. It’s not perfect-- he still struggles with underemployment and the pitfalls of low-income living. But he works, he has a lot of friends, he is raising his family, he has food on the table and a wonderful apartment. By and large, he can set goals and accomplish them for himself. At this point, he is more RAP ambassador than client!
Patrick once compared the volunteers of RAP to being like his parents, a concept I bristled at initially. But he was right, if you think about it, a parent’s long range game plan is for their kids to leave the nest---although, RAP is more like foster parents: as some people leave, then others come.
Nevertheless, it is my hope that all of the refugees we help will “grow out of” reliance on RAP’s help as our relationship matures, and we grow into a life of community and mutual friendship. To grow from choosing welcome to living in love and trust here in their new homeland; this is our success.
Wishing you many blessings, trust in triumphant goodness, and abundant hope in the new year,