CWS Lancaster in the Media
Jonathan Russell (Executive Director of Hourglass) and Sheila Mastropietro, (Lancaster Office Director, Church World Service) sat down for a conversation about how the work of Church World Service has been affected by the Coronavirus.
Think back to when you were 4 years old. Picture playing outside. Picture your father.
Now picture him being killed by soldiers. Imagine fleeing with your younger brother, through the African bush amid tigers, hyenas and snakes, alone in a group of strangers, separated from your mother and sisters. Imagine walking for three months, arriving at a refugee camp and spending the next 15 years there.
Imagine finally, after years of struggle, years of waiting, years of heartache, getting the opportunity to resettle somewhere safe.
Late in WHEN STARS ARE SCATTERED (Dial Books for Young Readers, 264 pp., $20.99; ages 9 to 12), 17-year-old Omar Mohamed [CWS Lancaster Resettlement Case Manager and Cultural Navigator] is asked to write a paper on “What It Means to Be a Refugee” for what he complains must be the 20th time since he started school six years earlier. Consider this fantastic graphic novel to be his 21st — and definitive — word on the subject. Written and illustrated by the Newbery Honor winner Victoria Jamieson (“Roller Girl”), based on extensive interviews with Mohamed, now a U.S. citizen who aids refugee resettlement, the book chronicles young Omar’s real-life experiences during the 15 years he spent in the U.N.-run Dadaab camp in Kenya.
When President Donald Trump first issued Executive Order 13888 requiring state and local consent to continue refugee resettlement, we agreed with LNP’s Editorial Board that it added a “maddening amount of bureaucracy” and acted as a serious “impediment to resettling refugees” here.
Time and resources — better spent helping refugees integrate into their local communities — instead were spent advocating for a program that has been running smoothly in Lancaster County for more than three decades.
But somewhere along the way, our perspective shifted. What was once seen as a speed bump became an opportunity for outreach, for important conversations and for a reaffirmation of Lancaster County truly being the welcoming place we thought it was.
After the meal, Shadrack Bunkete started strumming his guitar and filled the barn with his voice.
“Sometimes I feel like a motherless child,” he repeated over and over.
“A long way from home.”
In this building with a propane heater in the corner and an Amish family’s goats below, Bunkete is a world away from his home in Congo.
He now lives in Lancaster, and is one of a surge of more than 70 million people displaced around the world.
In September, President Donald Trump signed an executive order regarding where refugees can be resettled in the United States. For years, the federal government has worked productively with nonprofits and local authorities to resettle refugees. But Trump’s executive order potentially limits those efforts. It now requires consent from both states and local governments for refugees to be resettled. “You should be able to decide what is best for your own cities and for your own neighborhoods,” Trump said in October. In response, Church World Service, an international humanitarian organization that resettles refugees in Lancaster County and elsewhere, is urging municipal officials across southcentral Pennsylvania “to pass a resolution that would provide consent for refugee resettlement,” LNP’s Junior Gonzalez reported Nov. 21.
To rally against the Trump administration’s proposal to set the maximum number of refugees to zero for fiscal year 2020, about 150 people gathered in Penn Square on Saturday to show solidarity with Lancaster County’s refugees.
The “We Stand for Welcome” event, held outside Central Market, featured speeches from host Church World Service, Lancaster city Mayor Danene Sorace, faith leaders and some refugees who have resettled in Lancaster. The stories of the refugees — those who were separated from their families or are still separated — moved some of the members of the crowd to tears.
LANCASTER, Pa. — Lancaster Central Market, a patchwork of stalls neatly encased in a Romanesque-style downtown building since 1889, has long been a bustling hub where the area’s large Pennsylvania Dutch population sells the fruit, meat, baked goods and other foods produced on farms outside the city.
These days, though, something different is in the air.
The heady scent of spices from the beef samosas at one stall, Rafiki Taste of Africa, mixes with the tang of onions and pineapple being chopped for salsa at Guacamole Specialist. The low growl of sugar cane being crushed into liquid can be heard at Havana Juice. A Puerto Rican flag hangs near the cash register at Christina’s Criollo, where empanadas and sweet plantains are on offer.
The first year of Church World Service Lancaster’s soccer tournament for refugees was supposed to be low key.
The referees were all volunteers and just four teams signed up to play, said Stephanie Gromek, who co-runs the event.
Then 150 people came out to watch.
Four years later, the tournament — being held this weekend at Franklin & Marshall College — will feature food trucks, guest speakers and professional referees.
Eight teams out of 10 that applied will play on Saturday, with two teams advancing to the championship on Sunday, Gromek, Church World Service’s director of development and communications.
LANCASTER, Pa. — Maher Almahasneh returned home from his English language class to a small living room filled with guests. He calls them friends.
Harley Kooker, a 71-year-old dairy cattle veterinarian, was huddled in a kitchen corner assembling a new portable washing machine he’d persuaded a local appliance store to donate. His wife, Kate, was sitting on the couch letting the Almahasnehs’ 7-year-old daughter measure her head and her waist with a tape measure. Their case manager from Church World Service was also there, as was an Arabic translator. Within the hour two more women from their Mennonite church welcome team would drop in to say a quick hello…
Since President Trump issued his “Muslim ban” executive order, the country has been rocked by a cascade of political chaos, and now a critical legal battle that could soon reach the Supreme Court. But another, less visible crisis is unfolding in communities around the country, where global refugee diasporas have put down roots. For those set to arrive from the seven majority-Muslim nations targeted by the ban, Trump’s blatantly discriminatory decree represents an overarching challenge surrounding his election: how to bridge the divides of ideology and cultural difference in an insecure world.
While the various court challenges to the ban move ahead, refugee lives hang in the balance in Lancaster, Pennsylvania…
Lancaster, Pennsylvania has taken 1,300 refugees since 2013 but the policy is still controversial.
This US town takes 20 times more refugees per capita than the rest of the US.
To schedule an interview or reqeust information for a news story, please reach out to Stephanie Gromek, Development and Communications Coordinator.