For those of us who work in refugee services, the stories coming out of Europe the past few weeks are heartbreaking and, unfortunately, all too familiar.
The truck in Austria sealed shut on 71 refugees who suffocated and died. The thousands of Syrians refugees trapped behind gates of a Budapest train station. The capsized boats in the Aegean Sea. Such stories dominate headlines throughout the world.
Texas and specifically Houston leads the nation in refugee resettlement and we deal with the stories of refugees every day. Many have painful narratives of oppression and fear. Thankfully most have happy endings in their new home filled with freedom and new opportunities.
We thought we’d heard it all. But the footage of the refugee toddler who washed ashore on a Turkish beach last week, hit all of us at Interfaith Ministries of Greater Houston like a hammer to the heart. His name was Aylan Kurdi. He was 2. He died along with his 4-year-old brother and his mother. They were from Syria. They were looking for a better life.
This haunting story brought home, so very sadly, how important the work is for Houston’s refugee services agencies.
Each day, in conjunction with Church World Services, Episcopal Migration Ministries and Department of State, IM’s small staff does an amazing job, resettling 1,224 legal refugees last year alone. This includes finding our clients homes, enrolling their children in schools and landing them jobs. More than 90 percent of the refugees who come through IM are self-sufficient within six months, adding value to their neighborhoods and to Houston as a whole.
We are joined in this important mission by fellow members of the Houston Consortium of Refugee Services Providers which includes Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston – Houston, YMCA International, Refugee Services of Texas, and the Alliance for Multicultural Community Services, Houston Community College- Refugee Department, and the Bilingual Educational Institute. The work of this consortium, along with the support of the community, has made Houston a shining example of the potential for refugees to prosper. I was pleased to talk this weekend on several media outlets, including CNN, about Houston’s important role in resettling refugees.
As the Chronicle so vividly captured in its recent article, “City of Refugees: How Houston Became a Resettlement Magnet,” our city leads the nation in refugee resettlement. Some 30 out of every 1,000 refugees that the United Nations resettles around the world arrive in Harris County.
Put more succinctly by the article’s author: If Houston were a country, it would rank fourth in the world for refugee resettlement.
That’s an amazing statistic, backed by charity, love and generous donations from you. It’s a testament to our city’s heart and our willingness to welcome the stranger into our home. And in the end, we are a better city for the effort. Despite a situation in Europe that shows no signs of slowing, we continue to do our work, with hope and supported by your donations and volunteer help.
In the meantime, we will mourn 2-year-old Aylan Kurdi. He’s the world’s lost child. He’s Houston’s lost child.
Be part of the solution. Click here to continue our important work resettling refugees looking for a better life.
Ali Al Sudani
Director of Refugee Services
Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston