Water for the Thirsty
By Patrick Pickering
Waters for Ishmael is “a faith-based non-profit” organization that works directly with internationals who are either displaced or in a refugee status. I was able to meet up with Mitchell Machir on behalf of WFI to get a better understanding of what exactly they provide for the internationals that come to our area. The three primary goals that Waters for Ishmael strives to achieve for internationals is to build a welcoming community, share the hope and love of Jesus Christ, and empower them with the skills to be successful. Mitchell began to tell me about the story of a Vietnamese refugee named Dwayne and his family.
This is the story he shared:
Dwayne was a political activist fighting for freedom from one of the last communistic societies in the world. His family fled from Vietnam 25 years ago.
They became wanderers. No acceptance, no belonging, no security. The lack of these were what they faced for 25 years in 3 different countries.
Out of desperation, Dwayne applied with the United Nations for his family to be resettled as refugees to the United States knowing that less than .5% of all refugees worldwide ever get resettled.
“God brought us to America!” was Dwayne’s recurring statement when we met him five days after arriving here. The family’s joy was radiating in our office- especially when they could speak their own language with one of the staff members who spent years in that region.
With no friends, little English and knowledge of American culture, the road to acceptance and belonging is long. Without people like you they cannot succeed in their new home!
Now enrolled in our English school, they are receiving quality English education from teachers who care for them and even spend time with them outside of the classroom. So far, two of the five have found jobs. We are actively connecting this family to people that will empower and love them.
If you can, try to imagine being in the place that Dwayne and his family were in. Imagine having to flee the place you have called home because of your beliefs, as well as having no idea where you could go. There is an almost insurmountable amount of work to even get into the U.S. and that is only half the battle. You and your family would have very little to no money, and only the bare essentials to prove that you are legally allowed to be where you have been placed. There are not any friends to lend a helping hand or talk to, you would not have a place to live, or way to get around let alone clear path forward in this new culture. Additionally, the lingering feeling of having left everything known behind would create an unnerving and isolating feeling.
This is where people like Mitchell Machir and the many others at Waters for Ishmael step in. They have three main programs to help internationals assimilate and prepare them for living in our culture. They provide internationals with the American School for Women and Children, the American School Evening ESL (English as a Second Language), and Conversation Partners. We spent a long while discussing the conversation partner program. This program is volunteer driven and consists of simply meeting with internationals for an hour a week. The purpose of these meetings is to simply sit down and talk with them.
Outside of helping internationals learn English, Waters for Ishmael helps them look for jobs. Although airfare for the incoming internationals is paid, it is a temporary loan and payments start 6 months after they have arrived. In this six-month period, many internationals have to learn as much English as they can and attempt to assimilate into our culture. This includes learning to drive as well as many other nuisances that we often are unaware of. Families are able to meet the requirements for temporary housing during this six-month period, but those who come to the U.S. alone have to find alternative options. However, internationals who are considered an “anchor” often have family already in the area that they can live with. It is the “free cases”, or people without any ties here, that volunteers prove to be crucial. This again is where many volunteers through Waters for Ishmael come through. Help can come in the form of temporary housing, helping internationals learn to drive and get a driver’s license, or again by simply conversing with them.
In the last 10 years, there have been internationals from 130 different countries come into the Toledo area. Through programs like Water for Ishmael’s conversation partners, we have the unique ability to gain new perspectives of our world right in our own backyard. This partnership is beneficial to both individuals involved. Many of the internationals that come into our country, through Waters for Ismael, can feel isolated, and having the ability to talk to someone new and see a friendly face once a week can mean a great deal. Outside of the conversation partners program there are many ways to get involved, or donate to Waters for Ismael. Please check out their email, http://waterforishmael.org/, as well as their Facebook page.