Good afternoon friends far and wide. May God provide each of you with peace and hope during a time when many feel unsettled and anxious. We want to share a quick update with you, since many have been asking about how the refugee population is responding, and about whether we have limited our own activities in response.
As many of you know, Amarillo has no known cases as of today. Still, I have been texting with leaders just today to learn about the emotional and physical well-being of their communities. This is a time when our refugee leader network proves invaluable! We have observed varied responses among refugees here in Amarillo. For most, their concerns are simply that they can keep working, and that their children will not have to miss school. Many of these communities already have to work very hard to share responsibilities of child-rearing in order to work their shifts every day. Their livelihoods prevent many from being adamant about “social distancing.” Many local refugees are simply not privileged enough to remain isolated on purpose.
Still, this is of course a major point of conversation for them. We have learned about rumors and misinformation that is being spread among these groups. For example, some people worried aloud that people “caught” with the virus might be imprisoned or even killed in order to stop the spread of Coronavirus. It is important that we address lies like these quickly!
Our response to the crisis is nuanced. First, we have paused our Thursday night literacy classes for the time-being, in keeping with recommendations from national and local leaders.
On the other hand, at this time we do not want to steer our volunteer mentors away from their refugee friends. These relationships exist so that in times like these we can serve them by communicating clearly! This can’t happen in isolation, and technology produces comprehension barriers for English language learners. I believe that, in this case, isolating ourselves from longstanding refugee relationships can do more harm than good.
With that being said, here are our current recommendations:
- If you feel uncomfortable visiting a refugee mentee, please do not do so. Feel free to use this time to take a break from these relationships. We affirm your decision! Please call your friend to offer encouragement and inquire how they’re doing.
- If you can communicate clearly with your refugee friends electronically, then this is best.
- If you choose to visit, please call beforehand to see if they are still welcoming visitors and to ensure that everyone is feeling well.
- Please report back to us how your mentee’s family is coping and what concerns or misinformation they share. Use this as a chance to educate them! What a God-honoring way to serve our community.
Here is one way to be a source of information to your refugee friends. The Minnesota Department of Health has provided a basic overview of COVID-19 in multiple languages, including Somali, Karen, Spanish, Arabic, and Amharic. Just today we shared these resources with local partners, including ESL programs, the library, and the Director of Public Health. Visit the following website to find links to these documents.