Refugee Resettlement in Houston, TX: Integrating Families in Our Community
Besides the basics, we'd help people with ESL classes, driving instructions, enrolling in school, finding jobs, & even filing income taxes.
To the sixth grade class at a middle school, Willy, a teenage boy from Congo, shares his inspirational story of his 17 years living in a refugee camp before moving to Houston, TX.
What problem does the idea help to solve and how does your solution work? (2,000 characters maximum)
Houston is the most diverse city in the U.S. The people of St. Michael would sponsor new arrived families into our country by helping them integrate into our community. We have done a Refugee Resettlement Program for 4 years where we have successfully helped to 4 refugees become more stable and settled in our country. Due to a lack of funding, we are not able to continue. However, during it's tenure, families were welcomed into a furnished apartment on our campus. People brought the families meals every day for the first week of their arrival. Children were enrolled in school, even one at St. Michael Catholic School. If adults didn't have jobs, we helped them apply. Adults were given driving lessons and nearly all achieved their driving licenses. Due to the generosity of our parishioners, three vehicles were donated between the four families. Families also attend ESL classes taught on our campus. Those who are Catholic and wanted to participate in the liturgy were trained as altar servers. Those who are Muslim taught us more about their faith. One of the teenage boys gave his personal testimony to a local middle school so they could learn more about the refugee process, as well as put a face and story to a group of people. By integrating families into our community for a year at a time, families became more confident and resilient in their new environment. One teenager received a full-ride to a local university. Another teenage boy attended dental school and is a dental hygienist now.
A young Muslim girl from Iraq attended our Catholic school for 1st grade so as to welcome her into our community.
Geography of focus (500 characters)
We would primarily focus on Houston because it's currently the most diverse city in the U.S. and will soon be the third largest city.
Building Bridges: What bridge does your idea build between people on the move and neighbors towards a shared future of stability and promise? (500 characters)
Our idea not only bridges people on the move into our local community so they can achieve their future goals, but our idea also creates awareness and understanding of the "other" in community. We believe in the importance of encounter. When someone encounters someone different than himself, then there is less fear and misinformation. The more we can get to know people of different cultures, languages, and beliefs, we will become a people to help better our county as well.
What human need is your idea solving for? (1,000 characters)
We want to empower people and help them become assertive in their new home. We want to teach adults how to drive a vehicle so they can get around the city better. In Houston, we do not have good public transportation so knowing how to drive is almost a necessity. We want families to teach us where they come from so we can learn about their journey. We want to equip families with all the tools needed to lead a successful life in the U.S. We want the families to feel like they fit into society. Refugees are fleeing chaos, and we will provide normalcy and stability for them. By working together as a community, we will give them the human dignity to each person and the family as a whole.
What will be different within the community of focus as a result of implementing your idea? (1,000 characters)
When refugees move to Houston, Texas, they often do not know anyone. Our church community would take the families under our wing for a year so as get them involved and have a family to belong. I know we would be creating positive change since we have successfully transitioned four refugee families following this model from 2015-2019.
What is the inspiration behind your idea? (1,000 characters)
As a Christian, we are inspired and encouraged by Jesus to welcome the stranger. Sometimes it can be hard to care for people that are different from us, but it helps us connect with the burden of the stranger in distress. We think of the humble Samaritan that helped the beaten and naked man left for dead.
A former pastor suggested we house a few refugee families for free in some nearby apartments we owned for a year to help the families adjust to a new country and lifestyle. We were ready to gather our new friends with open arms.
Describe the dynamics of the community in which the idea is to be implemented. (1,000 characters)
With the money we can rent out some nearby apartments and then provide case management to help the refugee families navigate their way through not only the governmental paperwork but also to build friendships within the community. The money can also be used to pay teachers to instruct the families on new skills they can use for work or maybe even start their own business. Furthermore, we can have family meals where the families teach us about their food and culture. Parishioners of St. Michael can invite the families over for Thanksgiving meals and experience Halloween Trick-or-Treating. Families will be adopted for Christmas and receive gifts.
Family meal between some members of St. Michael and our Iraqi family.
How does your idea leverage and empower community strengths and assets to help create an environment for success? (1,000 characters)
St. Michael Catholic Church is a large community but only offers English masses. Even though our community is not very diverse, the diversity of refugee families help teach our parishioners about different cultures and types of people that they may not be familiar. The diversity which refugees brings would strengthen our church community as well. Not only would the church community be helping the families to connect and grow in Houston, but the families would be greatly contributing to the growth of our parishioners. The idea leverages the reality of the need and desperation of the world, as well as making it present to our community and parishioners. We are helping refugees, but we are teaching our community of the suffering of our neighbors who are our fellow brothers and sisters.
Two boys from Congo who were already Catholic wanted to be trained as altar servers so as to serve in their new faith community in Houston, TX.
What other partners or stakeholders will work alongside you in implementing the idea, if any? (1,000 characters)
We have worked with the Refugee Resettlement department within the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston Catholic Charities. Through Catholic Charities, members of the Refugee Resettlement department chose for us which refugee families would best suit our program. We would be happy to partner with Catholic Charities again, as well as be open to another organization suggested. Obviously we would also have our church parishioners involved by meeting the families, decorating the apartments, teaching financial skills, American customs, and parenting classes if need be.
What part of the displacement journey is your solution addressing
Arriving and settling at a destination community
Tell us how you'd describe the type of innovation you are proposing
Platform: Creating a community or market that facilitates interaction between users and resources
Idea Proposal Stage
Majority Adoption: We have expanded the pilot significantly and the program product or service has been adopted by the majority of our intended user base (i.e. 50% to 83% of the target population or 50,000 to 1,000,000 users).
Group or Organization Name
St. Michael Catholic Church
Tell us more about your group or organization [or lived experience as a displaced person?] (1000 characters)
St. Michael Catholic Church has a department of Social Justice Ministry that can manage and oversee the program. This department has overseen the former program that ran for four years and helped resettle 4 families. We have the resources and experience to make it a success.
Type of submitter
We are a registered Non-Profit Organization
Organization Headquarters: Country
Organization Headquarters: City / State