Coming Together for Asylum Seekers: A Message of Welcome, Hope, and Resilience

By Jan Meslin and Zsófia Sztranyiczki

In January 2022, IWC successfully completed its U.S. project focusing on building capacities and resilience of asylum-seeking women and their children. Funded in part by the UU Funding Program, the project also created tangible opportunities for UUs to build and continue the relationships with asylum-seeking families and to learn more about the U.S. immigration (deportation) system.

Originally designed to provide comprehensive assistance for asylum-seeking women and their children in U.S. detention centers, the project had shifted its focus to supporting women and children recently released from detention facilities or recently arrived in the U.S., given the substantial change in immigration policy under the Biden administration.

IWC’s project partner, the Asylum-Seekers Sponsorship Project (ASSP) and IWC Project Coordinator Jan Meslin worked together to offer three virtual informational sessions meant to engage UU women and other volunteers. These events also offered lessons learned about building empowering relationships with asylum seekers, and specific volunteering opportunities to UUs – both individually and congregationally. 

IWC’s project partner ASSP distributed 30 “welcome wellness kits” to asylum-seeking families. Each kit included (1) printed and video information on mental health resources that may aid in the healing and response to the psycho-social impacts of migration, detention, and deportation-related stress and trauma and/or gender-based violence; (2) Printed and video Information on the asylum process and existing pro-bono or low-bono resources; (3) Printed “Know Your Rights in the Asylum Process” information; (4) An art set, chocolate melts for hot cocoa, herbal teas, bath salts, a mini towel, handmade plushies, card games, healing essential oil; and (5) A cash gift card for the family.   

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Throughout the project, volunteers were mobilized to assemble the wellness kits, make cards, and mail the packages. A volunteer crocheted plushies for each package, and several others decided to make more plushies to send later. There was also interest in serving as sponsors for asylum seekers as well as connecting with specific asylum seekers to become pen pals. 

Asylum seekers and immigrants arriving in the U.S. are often confronted directly with the fact that they are unwelcome. This project demonstrated that great things happen when people get together to extend a warm message of welcome and support: "It has been beautiful to watch so many people commit their support and build community with each other to lay groundwork for providing community for asylum-seeking families. Amazing things happen when we come together!" (Laura Coleman, ASSP).