Peace and blessings,
The refugee ministry here at St. Peter’s has been in effect for approximately 15 years. Begun by Deacon Tom Tripp, it originated as a deanery-wide collaboration of Episcopal churches in the Eastern Deanery. Our collaboration was aimed at helping both the Vive LaCasa refugee shelter, and Journey’s End Refugee Services (JERS)- both located in the city of Buffalo.
Working with Journey’s End, we have helped resettle several refugee families coming into the Buffalo region by participating in a JERS Project called “Home Again.” We have done several Home Again move-ins by ourselves, and more with collaborations with other Episcopal churches, and with some from different denominations. We were able to collect furniture, food and household items for their apartments; welcome the families at the airport; provide welcoming meals; and in some cases, mentor the family for 3 months and beyond (Friendship Partnership).
In the Fall of 2016, the Episcopal Diocese of WNY awarded us a grant for $20,000 to maintain this ministry in an ecumenical manner and expand it if possible. We continued this Friendship Partnership with Journey’s End, until the refugee flow virtually ended. We also developed a video of our work, entitled “From Strangers to Neighbors”, which served as a primer for developing future refugee projects. Each parish in WNY or Northwestern Pennsylvania received a copy.
In 2019, Deacon Joanne and myself decided to serve a refugee family already here in WNY, due to the slow-down of immigration between 2016-2020.We began the L.E.A.F. program, which stood for Learning/Education/Activities/and Fun. With help from JERS and the Buffalo Schools, we identified a particular African family with five school-age children, and built a mentoring program around them. We transported them to our church and back home once a week, read stories to improve their English; gave them one-on-one mentoring session around their schoolwork; and enjoyed a different “fun” activity each week. We maintained contact with their schools to measure progress and seek improvement of our activities. We also provided school supplies, food, clothing, and other items as needed.
Sadly, we had to suspend the L.E.A.F. program with the many Covid-19 restrictions. However, we do maintain contact with the family and continue supporting them through the pandemic.
With the recent anticipation of Afghan evacuees coming to the WNY area, we intend to monetarily support Buffalo United for Afghan Evacuees, a consortium of local refugee agencies. We also are in planning talks to collaborate with Calvary Episcopal Church in Williamsville to revive resettlement efforts with these Afghan asylees, our newest Work in Progress.
Deacon Joanne Coury Frake
Deacon Thomas Tripp