When they arrived in Atlanta last year, the Bodhu family were terrified of how they would be treated. The Congolese family of six survived 15 years in a crowded, disease-ridden refugee camp.
Finally cleared to come to the U.S., they attempted to board a connecting flight in South Africa, only to learn of a travel ban and the frightening news they might no longer be welcome in America.
But three days later, descending the escalator in Atlanta’s airport to baggage claim, you could see the fear in their eyes yield to astonishment. More than a dozen smiling faces carrying welcome signs with the Bodhu family name were waiting with open arms and friendly hugs.
Welcoming refugees is made possible with the support of people like you through the LIRS Circle of Welcome program in communities across the country.
Circle of welcome is a partnership between local resettlement agencies and faith communities that support refugee families as they rebuild their lives in the U.S. For the Bodhus, LIRS connected them with volunteers in the Circle of Welcome, Atlanta who prepared the family’s new home, cleaning and arranging donated furniture, kitchen supplies, clothes and beds, everything a family would need.
They also helped the Bodhus learn English. They took the entire family to their first health checkups, using the bus so everyone learned how to get back and forth from doctors’ appointments, the grocery store, school and work.
In addition to getting the youngest children enrolled in school, Circle of Welcome, Atlanta helped the oldest daughter Tina get her GED and a job to save for college.
Through LIRS employment resource programs, both parents found work, and they have all become contributing members of their community. Circle of Welcome, Atlanta volunteers even introduced “Grandma Bodhu” – as her grandchildren call her – to women her age, and soon the entire family was making lifelong friendships in their new community.