What happens when a dream and two faith communities come together? Kids get supported to pursue their education.
It all started with Catholic Charities refugee program manager Dawn Dishman and her dream of a back-to-school event. She wanted to help refugee children, living in Phoenix area, feel prepared to start school.
After getting her refugee team to agree, Dishman organized an event that would bring multiple faith communities together to help our communities most vulnerable.
Faith Groups Support Refugee Children
“Shortly after this meeting took place, I was in conversations with Gale Bray – a member of the Latter Day Saint (LDS) Church who wanted to partner with the Catholic Charities refugee program in some way. Gale took the proposal back to her congregation. They quickly agreed that such an event was something they would like to be part of and committed to a back to school drive in June,” said Dishman. “At the same time, the Islamic Community Center who are based at the Tempe Mosque, also agreed to partner with the program and agreed to do a back-to-school drive during the month of Ramadan, June 6 – July 6.”
When a refugee family moves to America, they typically arrive with the clothes on their back or maybe a small tote. The average American family will spend more than $100 for school supplies, clothes and extracurricular activities. That is a big financial challenge for refugee families that are completely starting over.
Back to School Event
Months of planning paid off. Mary Nasearedden, the social director at the Islamic Community Center, presented Catholic Charities refugee program with hundreds of back packs, school supplies, hundreds of uniforms and $400 for gift cards to buy children's shoes.
Soon after, the Encanto LDS Church hosted its first multi-faith back-to-school/new-to-school event. This event was for refugee children and children from families with limited resources.
LDS Church members and refugee program staff generously volunteered their time at the venue and transported families to and from the event.
“There was such an outpouring of generosity that we were able to bring many leftover supplies to the office. Children, who were unable to attend the event and children who are continuingly being resettled, have and will receive backpacks and other needed supplies to be ready for their first day of school,” said Dishman.
Children Ready for School
A total of 31 families attended the event with 90 children receiving backpacks filled with school supplies, uniforms, reading books and gift cards to purchase shoes.
“This whole process has been a true blessing! It means that our refugee children can start school without having to worry about supplies, so they can focus instead on the joys of learning,”” said Dishman.
We want to thank our partners at the Islamic Community Center and the LDS Church, particularly Mary and Gale for their support. Dishman is quick to point out that this event wouldn't be possible without the encouragement, support and hard work of the refugee staff team.
You can get involved with our refugee program as a volunteer. There is always a need for hygiene products, move-in assistance, skills training, car donation and more. When you become a monthly giver you provide continuous support to refugee families in the Phoenix area.