75,000 Meal Challenge – September 9, 2018
On a dreary and rainy September 9th St Ignatius parishioners joined more than a hundred other individuals at the Helping Hands meal-‐packing event. For the third consecutive year two teams that consider Baltimore ‘home’, Catholic Relief Services and the Baltimore Orioles, sponsored the event, which aimed to provide 75,000 packaged meals to women and children in Burkina Faso. In the 1st year the goal was 10,000 meals, and due to the overwhelming support from individuals such as our generous St. Ignatius parishioners by year three the goal was 75,000. READ MORE
Walk-A-Mile in My Shoes Refugee Camp Simulation
Speechless. Devastated. Moved. These were just some of the feelings parishioners had after leaving Camp Peace, the Refugee Camp Simulation hosted by the Immigration Subcommittee on Sunday, June 24. About 60 individuals and families participated in this simulation, which included stations emulating various aspects of life in a refugee camp: entry, shelter, water, food, health services and education. There was also a Detention Center Station, to which parishioners were diverted with little explanation as many refugees are when they arrive to a new country.
One parishioner offered the following insight after completing the simulation, “I think the conception is that refugees come to the United States to pursue the American Dream, maybe like many of our ancestors did. But refugees do not come as a choice. That is the difference. They have to leave their countries then they encounter conditions such as these in the camps. It is just horrible.”
Indeed, over 65 million people in the world are currently displaced, and 22.5 million of these are refugees in other countries, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. While some are relocated to new countries such as the United States, many must wait long periods of time, expanding over years (sometimes decades), in the refugee camps. As parishioners learned on Sunday, there are often not enough resources to sustain all those people properly and with dignity.
Instead of the recommended 37sq. ft. of space per person when camps become crowed families of 4 sometimes live in spaces as cramped as 80 sq. ft. total. This means that they generally sleep sitting up, as there is not enough space for all family members to lie down on the blankets that are provided. Most camps are unable to provide the necessary 20 liters (5 gallons) of water per individual per day and refugees must carry this water themselves from the source to their dwellings in large buckets. These 5 gallons are used for consumption, cooking, cleaning and hygiene. By comparison the average American uses approximately 300 gallons of water per day. When water is available, it may not be cleaned properly resulting in waterborne diseases such as cholera, typhoid, and hepatitis. Most Americans consume nutritious, diverse meals over the course of a day. Refugees however are usually consume the same meals daily, like the rice and beans on display at the simulation. This leads to malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies. As demonstrated by the health services station, medical care is extremely limited in the camps, so when diseases spread, the effects are devastating. Educational resources are also extremely limited with not only limited supplies but also limited training of teachers to deal with children who have gone through such trauma. An additional obstacle to education is the language barrier. Many refugees do not speak the language of their host nations and thus children are placed in grades below where they were in their home countries and struggle to follow instructions given in a language that they are now trying to master. To mimic this, the education station presented a 3-minute lecture in Spanish with a few English words included and provided a single Spanish-English dictionary for participants to use as they tried to understand what was being said.
“It was fun to see how they lived, but weird. They have to walk miles with this heavy water,” one young boy reflected after completing the simulation. Afterwards, while visiting the Advocacy Station, he felt compelled to donate his entire allowance to the collection for the Jesuit Relief Services and the International Rescue Committee, both organizations which serve refugees worldwide. At the Advocacy Station, participants also had the opportunity to sign petitions to both President Trump requesting that he maintains US funding support to humanitarian agencies that assist in operating these refugee camps and to Senators Cardin and VanHollen to ensure US funding dedicated to education in these camps. Both of these petitions originated with JRS and the focus on education is there not only because of the Jesuits overall belief in the need for education but also because it has been shown that when children are not in school, they are more likely to be recruited by militias to fight in the same wars that they are fleeing because they are promised a better life. Attendees also graciously did a free will donation of almost $180 that will be donated to JRS and IRC. If you would like to contribute, please mail a check to the parish office and in the memo section demarcate it for JRS/IRC.
Overall, as one parishioner put it, it was a sobering day, grounding us in the reality of those most marginalized.
DC Detention Visitation Network Training – February 24, 2018
On February 24, 2018 the St. Ignatius Justice and Peace Committee hosted a training session for potential new volunteers to learn about the US immigration detention system. About forty people had the opportunity to listen to presenter Erin Hustings, Esq., co-founder of DC Detention Visitation Network. She spoke about how volunteers can be in solidarity with immigrants in uncertain desperation either by making in person visits or by sending letters to them to lessen their isolation. On any given night, about 1,000 migrants are held in at least five immigration detention facilities in Maryland and Virginia. They have been accused of or determined to be in the US without authorization and detained by US Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Film Showing:”Beyond the Dream” – Sunday, April 15, 2017
Roadtrip Nation: Beyond the Dream brings to light the stories of those confined to the darkest shadows in American society: undocumented immigrants. The film follows Alexis, Rachel, and Pratishtha, who were each brought to the U.S. at a young age by their parents. They all have temporary relief from deportation, but not legal status. An immigration policy called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) has allowed them to temporarily live and work in the U.S. Now in their twenties and without long-term protections, they are faced with the question: Will I be able to stay in this country?
Immigration Refugee Dinner – Saturday June 17, 2017
On Saturday June 17th at 4 pm in Ignatian Hall of St Ignatius Catholic community, the Immigration sub-committee of the Justice and Peace Committee hosted almost 40 members of the St Ignatius family and the community at large. These individuals were treated to dinner, and were able to intimately interact with the Fares and Algothani families; two recently resettled Syrian families.
Syria: A Faith and Justice Response – April 10, 2016
On April 10th, 2016, a three-part event related to the Syrian refugee crisis was put together by the Immigration sub committee. With close to 100 parishioners and interested individuals present, this diverse panel discussion was facilitated by parishioner Madeline Lacovara, a board member of JRS. Our panelists represented international and local response organizations as well as a look into the human aspect of this situation. Fr. Thomas Smolich SJ – International Director of Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS) is intimately involved in the ongoing crisis and addressed the conditions in Syria and the role that JRS plays both internationally and nationally.
Documentary Showing: “A Bridge Apart” – September 18, 2015
On Friday, September 18th the Immigration Subcommittee of St. Ignatius Catholic Community will present A Bridge Apart, a heartbreaking documentary exploring why minors are fleeing Central America and seeking security within the U.S. A Bridge Apart looks at this epic migration from the point of view of the migrants themselves. If a parent cannot find enough work to sustain a family, they are pushed by economic hardship and pulled to the U.S. by the promise of better life.
Documentary Showing “Children of Syria” – July 22, 2017
According to UNICEF, 8.4 million children, more than 80 percent of Syria’s child population, have been affected by the conflict, either in Syria or as refugees in neighboring countries. Filmed over three years, the documentary tells the story of four children in a startlingly intimate look at the Syrian war and the refugee crisis, through the eyes of Sara, Farah, Helen and Mohammed.
Documentary Showing: “God Grew Tired of Us” – May 19, 2017
On Friday, May 19 at 7:30 PM, the Justice & Peace Immigration Subcommittee will Present God Grew Tired of Us, a 2006 documentary about three of the ‘Lost Boys of Sudan’. It chronicles the arduous journey of John Bul Dau, Daniel Pach and Panther Bior from their native Sudan to Ethiopia and eventually to the US. As young boys in the 1980s, they had walked a thousand miles to escape their warridden homeland, and then had to make another arduous journey to escape Ethiopia.
Lawyer Information Session and Wine Tasking – 2017
On Thursday March 2nd at 6pm the Immigration sub committee in collaboration with Esperanza Center held an information session and wine tasting for lawyers from the parish and surrounding community. The event was held in Ignatian hall with a choice of 6 wines and appetizers from Fells Point Tavern. Two current pro-bono lawyers shared their experiences. Wade Wilson described his journey to Esperanza Center; retirement from a DC law firm to moving to Baltimore and living 2 blocks from the center in 2013.
10,000 Meal Challenge – 2016 & 2017
On August 20th two teams that consider Baltimore ‘home’, Catholic Relief Services and the Baltimore Orioles, sponsored the 10,000 meal event which aimed to provide 10,000 packaged meals to women and children in Burkina Faso. Thanks to all our St Ignatius Catholic Community team members Anne, Brendan, Chandra, Kathleen, Sean, Shari, Terry and Vonetta and your unwavering support we were able to raise almost 50% more than our $1000 goal. Overall the event itself surpassed its goal by 100% so we packed 20,000 meals that Saturday.
Explanation of Past Events and Actual Events
The immigration subcommittee aims to be a voice at the table advocating for comprehensive immigration reform. Our outreach to parishioners and the community is three fold:
Educate – bring to light situations and in some cases debunking the myths that are associated with immigrants, refugees and asylee seekers.
Motivate – emphasize the human aspect of the immigration situation, by highlighting some of the reasons that force individuals to leave their home countries and flee to the US.
Act – be of some tangible assistance to individuals in need (our main goal is advocacy leading to comprehensive reform but this will take time).