Last week I started explaining the background on the families in need that we’ve been helping. I’m writing today’s update while sitting on a family’s floor in jeans, flip-flops, and a Beer Lao t-shirt to tell you more about what we’re doing.
I’m thinking of how exactly to explain how I got here. The easiest explanation is to blame everything Ryan, a teenage refugee from China that I posted whose interview I posted when I started this blog. Similar to the family I’m with now, Ryan’s family fled political/religious persecution in their home country. In the old interview Ryan tells how his family fearfully made their way across borders from the south of China into Laos and finally into Bangkok where they thought they could get some help. That’s an overland journey most of us would avoid making even if it was along legitimate routes. They used most of what money they had to get to Bangkok and after arriving found themselves living on the street.
But I didn’t find Ryan’s family on the street. Nor did I know anything about his traumatic background when we met and made friends. These things rarely come up in small talk and I knew him only as the Chinese kid I kept running into at church. I remember thinking he spoke really good English, not knowing that he never finished high school and was using his language skills to support both his parents. It’s only through his friendship that I came to understand what it means to be an asylum seeker.
Asylum Seeking in Laymens’ Terms
In the US if I heard the word ‘asylum’ I’d immediately get the straight jacket–padded walls image in my head, but I’ve learned that an asylum seeker is basically the legal term for most of the people I’ve been helping. In laymen’s terms it refers to someone to who’s fled turmoil in their country to apply for refuge (or help) in another country. They leave their countries in fear and show up in foreign places where they trade in large portion of their fear for uncertainty. They can’t legally work in the new countries, aren’t prepared to deal with language and cultural barriers, and most subsist on aid from charities or religious organizations.
Today I’ve been paying rent for my asylum seeking families and encouraging them to save what they can and track their expenses. In an average month I disperse about $700 worth of rent aid for the ten families we’ve been helping (averages out to about $70 per family— but depending on their situation it may be more or less). The majority of the money comes from what was given over Christmas (note: 60% of those donations were through one person) and will be exhausted after I finish making my rounds this month.
The Need for Regular Donors
As World Refugee Day approaches on the 20th of this month, I hope you will consider helping us care for a family by making a regular donation. Ryan’s story is one that’s fun to tell during this time because he’s now living his dream. After almost five years of struggling to survive in Thailand, his family was sent to the US where he quickly got his GED and is now working and attending college. Their family got a new start because people decided to invest in them long before his hope to live without fear of being arrested or getting an education seemed at all realistic. I’m lucky to have made friends with Ryan and the experience opened my eyes to our chance to make a difference in the lives of many others.
P.S. – Paypal is an easy way to give, but the best way to setup a regular donation is by making a tax deductible gift through 100 Friends. I’ve updated the information on the donation page to make this clearer.