The Lutheran Spotlights Work of LSS/NCA, LIRS to ‘Resettle Young Refugees Who Are On Their Own’

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Rather than be forced to become a child soldier, Tesfaye Gebre fled Eritrea as an unaccompanied refugee minor. Photo Credit: The Lutheran/Lisa Helfert

I’m pleased to share an excellent article in the October issue of The Lutheran.

In it, reporter Jocelyn Breeland recounts how LIRS and our incredible affiliates around the country resettle “unaccompanied refugee minors” — kids who are struggling to find safety and a better future without the help and protection of their parents.

(This is also a chance for me to make a plea for readers to become foster parents!)

Breeland begins her article, “A New Future: Lutherans Resettle Young Refugees Who Are On Their Own,” with the story of one young person’s journey:

Tesfaye Gebre was 14, living with his family in a small town in the east African nation of Eritrea, when authorities announced they would begin removing children from school and forcing them to join the army. Gebre wasn’t in school that day and didn’t go back. Instead, he and a cousin set out on foot, crossing the border into Ethiopia. The date was Feb. 1, 2008.

The cousins weren’t the only ones to leave. Today more than 50,000 Eritreans live in refugee camps in northern Ethiopia. From January to May 2013 alone, nearly 4,000 people fled Eritrea, according to the U.N. News Service.

They fled what the U.N. Special Rapporteur calls “blatant disrespect for human rights.” Among the concerns are military conscription of children, indefinite national military service, arbitrary arrest, incommunicado detention and religious persecution.

After recounting Gebre’s struggle to reach safety, which included being tied to a tree overnight by police, Breeland describes where Lutherans play a special role in receiving such refugee kids:

The U.S. is the only country that has a program designed for unaccompanied refugee minors, and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service is one of only two U.S. voluntary agencies designated to manage resettlement for these children. In fiscal year 2012, LIRS provided reception, placement and support services to 8,701 refugees, including 104 unaccompanied minors.

In 2011, after a determination that third-country resettlement was the best option for Gebre, LIRS assigned him to one of its partners, Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area (LSSNCA), which found him a foster home in the area. (His cousin was resettled in Ethiopia.)

I hope you’ll read the entire article, which you can get a taste of at “A New Future: Lutherans Resettle Young Refugees Who Are On Their Own.” For those of you who are not already subscribers to The Lutheran, I encourage you to make this article the occasion for subscribing!

LIRS affiliates serve an extraordinary range of children, all of them deserving of loving homes when they need one. If you’re inspired by this article, here are some links (direct to foster care pages) that may help you explore an interest in becoming a foster parent for any of the vulnerable kids served by our affiliates:

Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area
Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains
Lutheran Services of Georgia
Lutheran Social Services of New England
Lutheran Social Services of Michigan
Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota
Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska
Lutheran Family Services in the Carolinas
Lutheran Children & Family Services of Eastern Pennsylvania
Lutheran Social Services of South Dakota
Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan

Many thanks to The Lutheran for running this powerful article, and most of all, thanks to our affiliates for their incredible work with and for unaccompanied refugee kids.

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