A New Way To Celebrate the Holidays

Even though October is barely over yet, you’ve probably noticed that Christmas decorations are popping up in a variety of places. The fact that people are focusing on  Christmas already, before Thanksgiving has been celebrated, elicits many different responses from people. As shoppers begin to gear up for the Christmas season, retailers everywhere are gearing up for our nation’s unofficial national shopping days, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Most people know that these shopping days exist, but did you know that there is also an unofficial global day for giving?

On Tuesday, November 29th people all across the world will participate in #GivingTuesday. The focus of this movement is to encourage people to give to their local charities in any way that they are able to. This is a way to celebrate the holidays that we here at World Relief Chicago are pretty pumped about!

World Relief Chicago would like to invite you to participate in #GivingTuesday by building a Welcome Kit for a refugee family. When refugees arrive here, they often don’t have necessary household items. Providing a Welcome Kit for a family not only provides them with items that they need, it also shows them that they are welcome and that it is important to us that they feel at ease in their new home.

A Welcome Kit could be something that you and your family do together to positively impact the life of a refugee family. Or you could spread the word to your church and inspire a Welcome Kit drive. No matter how you chose to go about giving, you will be providing much needed materials as well as assurance that a family is welcome in their new and unfamiliar country.

While you’re preparing to do your part on #GivingTuesday, feel free to let others know about this global day of giving, as well as our Welcome Kits, while using the Giving Tuesday hashtag!

Learn more about the #GivingTuesday movement at https://www.givingtuesday.org/

Learn more about our Welcome Kits at http://worldreliefchicago.org/welcome-kits

The Road to Citizenship

With Election Day 2016 drawing near, one thing is sure to be on the mind of every U.S. citizen – voting.

 

This year’s vote is particularly significant for the approximately 680,000 individuals who have become naturalized U.S. citizens each year since Election Day 2012; this election will be their first opportunity to cast their vote for President.

 

While the benefits of becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen are immense, so are the eligibility requirements.  To apply to become a naturalized U.S. citizen, a U.S. legal permanent resident must satisfy all of the following general eligibility requirements*:

 

  1. Be at least 18 years of age at the time of filing;
  2. Be a legal permanent resident of the United States for a required period of time;
  3. Have lived within the state or USCIS district where he/she claims residence for at least 3 months prior to filing;
  4. Have demonstrated physical presence within the United States for a required period of time;
  5. Have demonstrated continuous residence for a required period of time;
  6. Demonstrate good moral character;
  7. Demonstrate an attachment to the principles and ideals of the U.S. Constitution;
  8. Demonstrate a basic knowledge of U.S. history and government, as well as an ability to read, write, speak and understand basic English; and
  9. Take an Oath of Allegiance to the United States.

 

In our Immigration Legal Services department, we recognize the complexities of the application process.  Therefore, it is our goal to provide affordable, reliable, quality legal services to members of our immigrant communities seeking U.S. citizenship.  One way we have been able to accomplish this is though assisting eligible U.S. legal permanent residents to apply for U.S. citizenship through in-office appointments and naturalization workshops.

 

If you or someone you know is interested in determining legal eligibility for U.S. citizenship, please call our Immigrant Legal Services department at 773-583-3010. For additional information on World Relief Chicago’s Immigrant Legal Services department, please visit http://worldreliefchicago.org/immigrant-legal-services.

 

Although any naturalization applications submitted now will not be adjudicated in time for Election Day 2016, once granted, a naturalized U.S. citizen will be able to exercise his or her right to vote in any local, state, or Federal election in the future!

 

*The contents of this blog post are intended to convey general information only and not to provide legal advice or opinions.  For advice on specific legal issues, please contact our Immigrant Legal Services department.

 

Our first 5k!

Last Saturday, around 150 runners and walkers lined up across the starting line at the first World Relief Refugee 5k. The group was a mix of of 6-minute milers, parents with strollers, and kids running their first 5k. Some participants heard about the event from their church, others were invited by a World Relief staff member or volunteer, and still others simply saw a flyer posted at their local grocery store or coffee shop. What united this group of runners was their desire to come together to raise awareness and support for Chicago’s refugee community.

Runners and walkers enjoyed the beautiful weather, chatted with one another to find out how they were connected to the cause of supporting local refugees, and were even treated to free massages at the end of the race.

We were humbled by the great turnout and show of support for refugees in Chicago. We suspect most people had a good time, but we’ll let you check out the photos below to decide for yourself. Thanks again to all our walkers, runners, volunteers, and donors!

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What are your goals?

This is a photo of the Goal Board that hangs in one of our English as a Second Language classrooms.

Some of the goals read:

  • “Talk in English every day with my friends in the park.”
  • “Read books two days a week in my house.”
  • “Read the Bible in English.”
  • “Try to speak with people in the market.”

As our students put in the work to achieve these goals, we would like to invite you to set your own goals as you participate in our 5k run/walk next month!

Your goal could be to run your fastest 5k, to walk the full 5k, to chat with a World Relief staff runner about their experiences, to learn about what it’s like to be a refugee in Chicago, to meet a refugee runner, or to teach your child what it means to be a refugee.

Whatever your goal may be, we hope you’ll join us on Saturday, September 24th as we walk and run for local refugees.

Through Sunday, August 28th, use promo code GOALS to save 10% on registration.

Learn more and register at worldreliefchicago.org/5k

An easy way you can help local refugees just like Olympian swimmer Yusra Mardini

Image Source: United Nations / CC BY-SA 4.0

I’m sure many of you have heard the story of Yusra Mardini, the Syrian refugee turned Olympic athlete who helped save the lives of 20 migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea last summer. Yusra swam in open water for three hours pushing and pulling their group’s overcrowded boat to shore after its engine malfunctioned.

This summer Yusra’s inspiring story has been shared around the world as she competes as a swimmer for the Refugee Olympic Team in Rio.

While World Relief has yet to resettle any refugee Olympians this summer, our arriving refugees experience their own challenges and triumphs of Olympic proportions.

I think of the refugee single mother who is spread so thin providing care for her children in between her long, overnight shifts at the factory. Then there’s the ten year old Arabic speaking boy who bravely walks down the hall of a Chicago Public School building on his very first day of school. Or, perhaps you can imagine the determination an elderly couple from Burma summon in order to walk a mile to their English class on a cold, snowy February morning.

One way you can support the difficult resettlement journey our refugees face is by joining us for our 5k run/walk at the Bunker Hill Forest Preserve on Saturday, September 24th. All proceeds will benefit World Relief Chicago and the refugees we serve. 

Through Saturday, August 20th, use promo code OLYMPICS to save 10% on your registration fee. Learn more at worldreliefchicago.org/5k 

World Relief Summer Potluck!

World Relief Chicago is happy to announce a Summer Potluck!

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Come eat, share and connect!

Why Potluck?
It isn’t often that gatherings of volunteers and clients are happening. Most of the time, a Good Neighbor Team is spending time with their refugee family, while another volunteer is sharing a meal with her refugee friend. Rarely do these groups meet. Many of our refugee clients also experience isolation. While we have wonderful programs at WR like our ESL classes–which do create community and connection–there are clients who are not able to participate due to their work schedules, family needs, and many other challenging demands of what it means to be a newcomer in a new country.

We’ve put together this event to be the opposite of exactly that–to create connection and community that we hope can happen more.

If you are a current volunteer, not only would we love for you to bring your friends and family, but we would love to see you bring your refugee family and friends as well. This is a great opportunity to do something fun with your refugee partners. It is also a great time to meet and connect with other volunteers, and for our refugee and immigrant families and individuals to connect with each other.

If you are a seasoned or former volunteer, we invite you to do the same!

If you are a client of World Relief, please do come and join us! Meet other WR refugees and immigrants, WR volunteers, and other new faces.

If you are simply interested in World Relief, please do come out! Connect with our community and get a feel for who we are. This is a great opportunity for those interested in volunteering with us or who are simply interested in WR in general.

When & where?
This event will be Sat., Aug. 13th, from 12 – 2pm at the World Relief office (3507 W. Lawrence Ave.). Questions? Visit our website to learn more.

How can you help?
Bring a meal to share! This is a great way to introduce and share an American meal with new refugees and immigrants.

You can also donate a backpack to a refugee child. Bring a filled backpack and it will be given to a child in need in the fall as part of our Annual Backpack Drive. (Backpacks will not be donated at the potluck.)

Register today!
Click here to register.

Some Halal meat and other food will be provided. Children of all ages welcome.

A Volunteer’s Passion for Service Rekindled

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Shobhana Kasturi has been volunteering with World Relief since December of 2014. As a volunteer attorney, she helps out in our Immigrant Legal Services Department. Conducting legal screenings, co-managing cases, and going to outreach events are just a few of the many tasks she has done to assist our immigration attorneys.

Hannah Kiefer, WRC’s Volunteer Coordinator, had the opportunity to spend some time chatting with Shobhana about her experience.

What has your experience been like helping in our ILS Department?

“. . . I’ve seen clients come in feeling hopeless and dejected, and when they leave after a consultation, there’s a joy and buoyancy because they’ve been given some hope. I feel like each attorney counselor genuinely wants to help.

“It’s not uncommon for [clients] to come in and give mementos, thank you’s, bring in food, etc. Some will come in and sit down and want to chat because now their relationship has evolved. It’s transcended even that [working] relationship. That says a lot about the services that are provided. That says that the client has been touched by the work that has been done.”

What kinds of challenges and/or joys have you experienced during your service?

“. . . the ILS branch of World Relief . . . provides more nurture and care even though [there are] lots of cases that are going through. I don’t feel like the clients are a number. Their advocates know them by name. They know their cases in and out. If you went right now and asked [a staff member] about a case, [they] could rattle off all the details. The level of care is really strong.

“If you have compassion when you’re advocating, it makes such a difference. That’s why they have such a good record.”

Shobhana had additional observations to share.

“[The Department isn’t just] providing them with legal service, but also giving them hope, a small glimmer of hope. The advocacy is not just a mechanical thing, but combined with passion and a desire for success.

“That’s been my experience and that’s why I want to continue to have a connection with ILS WR. That motivates me.”

What kinds of lessons have you learned as a volunteer?

“I have really learned to be more patient. On scale of 1 to 10, I used to be 2 or 3. Now I’m a 9 or 10. It’s been a big contributor. I don’t let things get to me as much, and I try to handle things with more grace.”

Have you grown personally in other ways? If so, how?

“Service has been very important to me, even as a child. Unfortunately, my career took me away from that. . . . [T]his [has] really brought me back to the joy of giving back. I had not been so happy before. It keeps me very grounded. I have a smile back on my face because I love what I’m doing. I love seeing the impact.

“The passion I had as a kid has been kind of re-lit. . . . It’s been life-changing because I see the next two decades of my life [about giving back].”

WANT TO VOLUNTEER?

LEARN|| Read more about our opportunities at worldreliefchicago.org

SERVE|| Fill out your application today!

DONATE|| Busy schedule? You can still help! Provide in-kind or financial donations and make a difference in someone’s life today.