Diana Coleman

Benson Area Refugee Task Force (BART)

Benson Area Refugee Task Force (BART) Imagine being told you have to flee your home tonight. You must run on foot. It may take months to get to safety. You will probably never return. What one thing would you carry with you? This is the plight of refugees fleeing countries due to persecution or war. In 2014, there were over 16 million refugees seeking safety, nearly half under the age of 18. If a refugee is able to get to a refugee camp, they may spend 15 to 20 years in that place. Less than 1% of refugees get resettled in a third country, such as the U.S. The President determines each year the number of refugees who will be admitted to our country. The ceiling for 2014 was 70,000. The projected amount for Nebraska was 750; however, the State received over 1000. Once a family arrives in Omaha, they are assigned a case worker through the placement agency and taken to their apartment. Children are enrolled in school, adults are referred for employment, and they are given groceries. After 90 days, they no longer have a case worker.The Benson Area Refugee Task Force was formed in response to the overwhelming needs of refugee families being placed in the Benson area. Six church communities recognized the needs of these families to have help in all aspects of transitioning into life in Omaha. They come with very few articles of clothing, and it is all warm-weather clothing—they wear flip flops on their feet. They need help with public transportation. The culture adjustment is overwhelming for them. BART members are advocates for these refugee families and assist them in dealing with everyday needs: learning how to pay bills, talking with school counselors and teachers, reporting maintenance problems to landlords, communicating with health care providers, helping them navigate public transit, and sometimes just being there to give them a smile.BART also provides ESL classes, citizenship classes, and computer training classes to help adults find better employment and living conditions for their families. Most refugees in the Benson area work in the packing houses, sometimes 12-hour shifts. They do so because they recognize the need to provide for their families and become self-sustaining in the community. They aspire to eventually buy their own homes.As Nebraska faces an additional influx of nearly 600 refugee families in 2016, we ask for prayers for those families and for the members of BART. Remember a bundle of belongings isn’t the only thing a refugee brings to his new country. Einstein was a refugee.
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