Help Refugees in your Community

For: Welcoming the Stranger
Pennsylvania
Organizer: Welcoming the Stranger
Help Refugees in your Community (Welcoming the Stranger)
$1,550
of $5,000 goal.
Raised by 31 donors
31% Complete

The Story

Stand with refugees on World Refugee Day by helping the refugees in your own community. $5,000 will educate 25 English language learners for a term. 

The world is in the largest refugee crisis in history, with 65 million displaced people around the world. Some of those people have moved to our own local communities, and Welcoming the Stranger is dedicated to help them build a new life in a new country.

Those seeking refuge in the U.S. who use Welcoming the Stranger’s services hail from over 25 different countries. The UN Refugee Agency refers the most vulnerable cases to host countries for resettlement, so we are often serving very young, elderly, disabled, or ill refugees, or those who are survivors of violence or torture. 

Refugees are regular people who have goals like all of us, but their lives have been interrupted. Welcoming the Stranger helps to ease the transition while starting anew by providing free English and computer skills, job search help, and references to community resources in the Philadelphia metro region.

With Welcoming the Stranger's help, our refugee students become successful. Read the article below to hear of one such success story, the Curevac family, who joined us from Bosnia. Will you help the refugees currently in our program to have a success story like Midhat’s? Please join us in our work with refugees and immigrants, to offer them a warm welcome, free education and training, connections and referrals to resources, and a community that will support them in their transition. We can’t do it without you.

Fundraiser Updates

Posted on July 11, 2017

Posted on July 11, 2017

We are almost to $1,500! Thank you so much to everyone who has donated... you are making a world of difference in the lives of immigrants and refugees in your neighborhoods. Please keep sharing this and spreading the word! Thank you!

Posted on June 26, 2017

Posted on June 26, 2017

In just one week, we have raised almost $1,000! We only need $30 more to reach our first goal marker, ensuring that 5 more students will receive an education next term. Thank you to everyone who has shown your support by donating and sharing this campaign. We are blown away by the number of shares on social media; thank you for helping us to spread the word! We cannot do our work without you. Thank you!

Posted on June 16, 2017

Posted on June 16, 2017

From Sarajevo to PA: The struggle for freedom and family

By Peggy Farrell

“There was no food and no jobs. The government just wasn’t ready,” said Midhat Curevac, who lived in the small town of Rogacica, about 40 miles from Sarajevo.

Amid growing unrest in March of 1992, Bosnians voted for Independence from Yugoslavia. During the turmoil, Curevac and his wife Dina left their town, and made their way to Sarajevo, hoping to find food and shelter. But, on April 7, when the United States and the EC recognized Bosnia’s right to independence, unrest erupted into full blown war. “Shelling and grenade attacks started falling.” said Curevac. “We didn’t know it would be such a long fight, longer than Stalingrad in WWII.” According to britannica.com, the battle for Sarajevo lasted 1,425 days, with approximately 100,000 deaths, more than two million people displaced, and multiple charges of genocide eventually brought against military leaders.

For Curevac, the situation became dire. In 1995, while the city of Sarajevo was surrounded by the Army of the Republika Srpska and still under siege, Dina Curevac delivered their first son Enid. “The roads were still blocked and we couldn’t get back to our hometown. At that point we were just trying to survive,” said Curevac. But amid the hardship there was hope. America had a refugee program. Curevac’s sister, Maida, had gotten out and moved to the United States. Finally, on a cold January day, when their son Enid was five, they were accepted into the program and made their way to New Jersey. “We weren’t thinking about anything, about what it would be like. We were just so happy to have a new life, a new beginning,” Curevac explained.

Life in America was difficult at first, and he struggled to find a job. “It was beautiful, but we didn’t understand anyone. We were scared about how we were going to survive. Our son was afraid to go outside,” Curevac remembered. Eventually he found a job as a painter in Bucks County, PA. During that time, Curevac was introduced to a minister named Sturgis Poorman, who ran a free, non-profit educational organizational for immigrants and refugees known as Welcoming the Stranger. “We met Sturgis, and I have never met anyone like him. He was so patient and he understood.” Curevac began taking English and Citizenship classes and said his life began to improve. “He [Sturgis] said to bring my son with me, and he found a babysitter for him so I wouldn’t have to skip classes.” Despite all the changes, the Curevacs approached their new life with courage and grace. “I remember that Midhat, Dina, and Enid came to us just after 9/11. It was an uncertain time in the life of our country. Yet, they wasted no time in getting right into serious language study. Midhat’s ability to relate the horrors of war, even with his initial limitation in English, was important for me as I tried to make sense of all that was going on at the time,” said Reverend Poorman.

According to Meg Eubank, Executive Director of Welcoming the Stranger, the organization, which began in 1999, offers free English, computer, and citizenship classes, and has taught more than 3,000 immigrant and refugee students who have come to the United States from around the globe. Eubank talked about the need for language classes, noting that according to the National Institute for Literacy, in Philadelphia there is only one class for every 5,200 foreign born residents, and only one class for every 12,100 residents in neighboring Bucks County. “Welcoming the Stranger has served refugees from approximately 25 different countries, and immigrants from 100 different countries. We not only offer free educational opportunities, but also provide resources like childcare and job search opportunities, housing and food help, and provide a community and connections to help people adjust to life in a new land,” Eubank said. She also stressed the need for support from the larger community. "In the past year alone, Welcoming the Stranger's enrollment has grown over 100%. There is a great demand for our services, and we are dedicated to continuing to offer free education, resources, and a welcoming community to our students. In my six years at this organization, I have found that Welcoming the Stranger is not just a service provider, but is more like a family. Students and teachers alike support one another like family members would, and there is genuine connection and sharing of knowledge and cultures. We hope that community members will see fit to support our work and help our global family continue to thrive."

Eventually Curevac began working as a dishwasher, then worked his way up to sous chef and eventually chef at New Jersey Hospitality (NJHA). He stressed how much his life and his family’s life changed after taking classes at WTS. He talked about how learning English helped he and his wife understand their new country and how to communicate and how to handle everyday tasks like working, shopping, banking, and talking to teachers and doctors. Mostly though, he talked about how it gave him confidence and made him feel like he belonged. “I looked forward to every Monday because going to class was the best two hours. It was a chance to learn English and meet people from everywhere. Monday classes were so relaxing because you have someone like Sturgis who understands you, and you are with people who are in the same situation with similar stories. Learning English at WTS helped us create a better life.”

Over the years, things have improved for their entire family. Curevac’s wife, Dina, went on to take classes at Bucks County Community College, then finished her degree at Rider University, and now works as an actuary for Chubb. After starting school, his son, Enid, came out of his shell, and is now in his third year of pharmacy school. “Enid was the best student in middle school and high school, and he is so appreciative.”

After seventeen years in the United States, Curevac is grateful for the skills he gained while taking classes at Welcoming the Stranger, and for the opportunity to bring his family to the United States. Two years ago, the Curevacs welcomed their second son, Rubin. “He will grow up in America, where so many people have an open mind and an open heart,” said Curevac.

Anyone interested in donating time or money can call at 215 702-3445, email at [email protected], or visit the website at www.welcomingthestranger.org.

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