Letter from our President

Greetings from RAP and from the families we serve:

 

We're grateful that you have taken the time to visit our website to learn more about RAP. Our mission is clear and here's how we live it:   

 

First, we choose welcome.  To welcome is to invite someone new into community. It is a reciprocal relationship involving teaching about your own culture and learning about their culture. To be in community with someone 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 attain self-sufficiency.  By self-sufficiency, we 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 in some ways.  When we live in community, there will always be interdependence.  Self-sufficiency, the way we 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 safeguard 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”.  However, doing this does not always reflect love and trust.  RAP does indeed unravel many of the “Catch-22’s” that refugees are so often forced into when they first come to live here in this area of New Jersey—school challenges, poverty, unemployment, welfare...  all of these situations come with their own “Catch-22”-type traps.

 

Once the resettled refugees are freed from these traps by improved access to consistent income, medical care and English language classes, that’s their opportunity to be empowered to set their own goals, and make their own choices. We become friends and live in community together.  

We saw this progression unfold with our resettled friend Patrick, who is happy and just living life.  At the one-year mark, his situation wasn’t perfect-- he still struggled with underemployment and the pitfalls of low-income living.  But he worked consistently, he maintained a lot of friends, and he always had food on the table.  At the one-year mark, his “graduation” from the RAP program, he set goals and accomplished them for himself.  At the two-year mark since his arrival in the U.S., he realized his dream and became a homeowner, and his family is doing very well!

 

It is my hope that all of the refugees we help will transcend 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 success.

Jill Segulin

July 2021

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