Archive for May, 2018

Friday, May 11, 2018

Refugee in Montana

Stephen Maly, WorldMontaan Board Member                                                               Stephen Maly, WorldMontana Board Member.

There are over 65 million people displaced by war and sectarian violence in Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. Most are living in camps, with little prospect of ever being able to return to their home countries and communities. The refugee situation is worse now than at any time since the second world war.

Our organization supports refugee resettlement efforts in Montana. We have joined a new network of non-profit entities that includes the International Rescue Committee (IRC), Softlanding Missoula, and Gallatin Refugee Connections. To date, WorldMontana has engaged primarily in educational outreach, bringing people together to learn about immigration laws and processes that apply to refugees from war-torn areas and their resettlement in the United States. We have worked closely with Kathe Quittenton, the state refugee coordinator at the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services. WorldMontana board president Jeanette Fregulia was instrumental in hosting the first refugee resettlement network “summit” at Carroll College last fall.

Refugee resettlement is in a state of flux. President Trump has established an annual cap of 45,000 refugee entrants, the lowest on record, and only about a third of the total recommended by the previous administration. The repeated issuance of travel bans affecting refugees from a number of majority Muslim countries has caused turmoil, confusion, and delay in the complicated vetting procedures that any individual refugee must undergo before being admitted into the United States. Arrivals into the country have slowed to a trickle. The State Department is requiring refugee resettlement offices with fewer than 100 arrivals per year to close.

The IRC is the only resettlement agency operating in Montana. Their office in Missoula, working alongside Softlanding (a local non-profit), has resettled 135 individuals since the summer of 2016. The largest number have come from Eritrea and Congo, both in Africa; other persons and families have come from Syria and Iraq. With plans to bring in 125 more in fiscal year 2018, which ends next September 30, the IRC will not be forced to shut down. This means WorldMontana members will have opportunity to assist with welcoming refugees to our state in the months ahead.

We can collect and deliver material aid to refugee households in Missoula. Softlanding has issued a list of much-needed items, including diapers, lamps, computers, flat screen TVs, vacuum cleaners, cooking pots, bike helmets, laundry detergent, and cleaning supplies. Earlier this winter, the Gallatin Refugee Connections undertook a Bozeman area drive to assemble and ship Welcome Kits for 5 new refugee families in Missoula that included these and other practical necessities. They also sponsored a screening of the film Salam Neighbor at MSU in February. We could do likewise!

Softlanding is planning to host its second annual World Refugee Day Soccer Tournament on June 16. WorldMontana may want to send a delegation from the Helena area to observe and support that festive occasion. Who knows, maybe we could muster a group of young soccer players to represent our community as well! (Such an endeavor would dovetail with our own ambitions to build an outreach program locally centered on international students and World Cup events.)


Chuck and Jane Amdahl with Iraqi students Mina and Zainab at Helena Regional airport
HOST FAMILIES in HELENA REQUIRED for July 11 – 25, 2018!
WorldMontana will again host a group of the best and brightest of Iraqi high school students for a period of two weeks this July, 11 – 25 and is looking for families to take one or two students into their homes during their stay.  To qualify as a host family, all you need is a spare bedroom and a warm heart.  Host families are responsible for providing their students breakfast and supper, and for providing transportation to and from Carroll College or another designated Helena location each weekday.  Hosts will have one or more weekend days for family time with their students, during which they can take them on outings, have a backyard barbecue, hike up Mount Helena, or just go shopping with them.  It is wonderful way to learn about life in other countries and be a citizen diplomat for your own country.  And the students are thoroughly vetted before being accepted into the program, which should eliminate many potential concerns.
Chuck and Jane Amdahl, who have hosted four Iraqi students and one Iraqi facilitator in past years and look forward to hosting more in the future, have nothing but good things to say about their experience: “We thoroughly enjoyed our time with Abo, Fahad, Mina, Zainab, and Safaa.  Those lucky enough to be chosen as host families will have the experience of a lifetime.”  Contact Sasha or Kavida in WorldMontana’s offices to learn more about this great opportunity. Phone: 406-447-4444, email:
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