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Refugee Ministries

Mission

When the Lost Boys of Sudan began arriving in Rogers Park in 2001, St. Paul’s by-the-Lake became their religious and cultural home.  These boys are now grown and they have gone on to lives in the wider Chicago community. More recently a new wave of refugees has come to Rogers Park. They are Burmese. For years these refugees had lived confined in camps on the Thai boarder. Their children were born in these camps. Now St. Paul’s by-the-Lake has become their home as well.

The principal mission of the Burmese refugee ministry at St. Paul’s by-the-Lake is education. We are passionate in our belief that education is the key to integrating our refugees into American society. With the benefit of education, they can successfully move into independence and self-sufficiency.

Children

For the 2011-2012 school year, our refugee ministry sustains three young women at a Catholic girls’ high school and six elementary/middle school students in the Chicago charter school system.  Our support is financial, administrative and instructional.  Our director applies for grants, solicits private sponsorships, submits requests for governmental assistance and works with the schools to secure scholarships for our students. In other words, she does whatever is necessary to make sure our refugees gain access to the best educational opportunities possible. Additionally, she routinely attends parent-teacher conferences for each and every student in our care.

We have a dedicated group of tutors who work with our middle school students at the church twice a week year around. They provide homework assistance along with instruction in English, math and science. On occasion, we have secured professional tutors when individual students were in need of specialized assistance.

Adults

Three years ago St. Paul’s by-the-Lake set up a Language Lab to assist our adult Burmese refugees who were beginning English speakers. Six computers were dedicated to Rosetta Stone English software.  Our original students have advanced to ESL classes at Truman College. However, the lab is still available to new English speakers on Thursday evenings and Saturday afternoons.

Our director hosts a weekly Burmese women’s group on Wednesday nights.  Topics include financial literacy and citizenship. And a volunteer from the community teaches our refugee women cooking, sewing and nutrition on Saturday afternoons at the church.  She also instructs them in vegetable gardening during the summer.

Refugee Family Christmas Gift Program

Every year we entertain our refugees and their extended families at a holiday party.  Individual members of our congregation make sure that all in attendance receive Christmas gifts purchased especially for them. Over fifty refugees attended our Christmas festivities this year. Many from outside our own church community received the gift of Christmas for the very first time.

We are indebted to all those who contributed to our Refugee Family Christmas Gift program. We are thankful that in these most trying economic times their generosity exceeded that of the previous year.

Funding

Our refugee outreach is not funded through the St. Paul’s by-the-Lake budget. Rather we are supported through outside grants and donations from members of this congregation and friends in the surrounding communities. We ask that you consider making a donation to St. Paul’s by-the-Lake for the Burmese Refugee Fund to assist us in this transformational ministry among the Burmese refugees here in Rogers Park.

Contact Us

Judith Gramer is our program director. You can email her at jvg001@sbcglobal.net. Please put “Burmese Refugee Ministry” in the subject line.