By Tommy Deal
While much has been in the news about the large numbers of children, some unaccompanied yet most accompanied by a parent or guardian, the heart of Christ’s church is asking “what can we do?”
I was privileged to attend a meeting at a Dalton, Ga., school which is fulfilling their task of providing education for these students and church representatives who are seeking ways to help. It was heart-warming to say the least.
Each one of these educators has a deep passion, care and love for these young people well-beyond their professional expectations. From the Superintendent, school administration, counselors, social workers and the classroom teachers all were extremely sold on the proper care for guiding these young lives in acclimating to their new culture.
Newcomer Academy, housed at Morris Innovative High School, is focused on helping these children ages 11 – 15 succeed in their accessing the new language and overcoming their deficiencies academically. We visited the classrooms and were eagerly greeted by these students who wanted to rehearse their new phrases for the week, “Hello. My name is Luis. What is your name?” and “How are you? I’m fine thank you.”
There were the biggest grins as they felt so good about their accomplishments and the accolades given to them by the guests.
The Academy has three teachers currently who work with the approximately 30 students. They were hired because of their specialty and passion for learning. One is a reading specialist, one is a middle school specialist and one an adult education/English speaking specialist. They each had spent the first eight days of class getting to know the students, assessing the level of learning and gaining their trust. It was evident to this observer that they had accomplished each of these, especially gaining the students’ trust.
After visiting the classrooms, meeting the students and hearing from the teachers, the facilitator led a discussion of needs. Physical needs like shoes and clothing for PE, socks, underwear and coats were listed along with food and snack packs. Educational aides such basic/low-level books for beginning reading, magnetic dry-erase boards, computers and printers were noted. Each of these students could greatly benefit from tutors and mentors who would sit and listen to them read, or help them with other understandings.
Beyond the ordinary needs like previously mentioned it is believed that at some point these students will need proper mental health care due to the trauma they lived through and experienced on their journey. Each will need proper legal counsel when they go to their immigration hearing. With counsel present and representing 83% are allowed to stay.
Like every school there are needs which social workers regularly address like helping families keep power on in their homes, food for weekends, hygiene items and medical care.
What I gleaned from this meeting is that every church should inquire with their schools as to what similar needs exist that they can be a part of meeting. Like in Dalton, this was not a “one church” meeting. There were representatives from the Methodist, Episcopal, Presbyterian, Baptist, the Catholic Diocese and non-denominational churches. The saying, “It takes a village” holds true if Christ’s Church is to be His Light in their community. It takes community, relationships and collaboration to meet all the needs.
What can your church do?
Tommy Deal is U.S. Disaster Response Director for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Learn more about CBF Disaster Response here.
Donations of support can be made to CBF’s fund “CBF CARES (Children and Refugee Emergency Support)” online at thefellowship.info/cbfcares, or by mailing a check payable to “CBF” with Acct. 17027 in the memo line to:
Cooperative Baptist Fellowship
P.O. Box 102972
Atlanta, GA 30368-2972
For more information on how you or your congregation can help, contact Tommy Deal at firstname.lastname@example.org.