A National Refugee Support Spotlight was held on March 5, 2022, for SSSIO to launch a more coordinated and systematic approach to working with refugees in the U.S.

The Spotlight drew 135 devotees from all over the USA and beyond. The session included:

1. An Inspiring testimony by a Former Refugee 

Walid Al Ani is a refugee from Iraq. He worked with USAID and the US State Department in Baghdad, Iraq for over 10 years, helping develop internal and external customer relations and rebuild the country. Walid was recognized by the State Department for high standards of achievement. He and his family finally had to flee Iraq because of security threats. Here in the U.S., his Activity Leader position at the Denver Library Plaza Program has provided him with a new purpose in life – help refugees rebuild a new life by accessing community resources, guide them in developing sustainable living plans and help them achieve self-sufficiency. Walid’s goal in life is to develop his career along the right path and continue to discover his passions. He kindly consented to being the Keynote Speaker for the Refugee Support Spotlight event on March 5, 2022 and told the riveting story of having to flee his home country and the process of adjusting to life in the U.S. Wahid moved and inspired many of the attendees with his forthrightness and genuine compassion for refuges. He gave them much to think about in relation to their work with refugees and their families.  

2. Presentation by a Sri Sathya Sai Center about their Sponsorship of Refugees from Afghanistan 

Deepti Bireddy is the Service Coordinator for the Sri Sathya Sai Center of Chelmsford, MA, and a recent member of the National Refugee Support Core Group. What began in late 2021 at the center as a refugee support effort to provide groceries for multiple newly arrived families from Afghanistan, has become a full-fledged sponsorship of those families. Deepti presented at the Refugee Spotlight on the various phases of refugee support from serving basic needs of food and accommodation to accessing community resources to meet the medical, financial, educational and long-term housing needs of the refugee families and the many steps for moving refugees and their families towards self-sufficiency. Her presentation focused on the intensive selfless service that sponsorship of refugees involves, and how it brings with it new understanding of the depth of commitment and compassion needed to help the refugee families succeed in adjusting to their new life in the U.S. 

3. The Vision, Mission, and Goals of the National Refugee Support Core Group 

Aparna Bhaskara and Ernie Duff described the vision, mission and goals of the National Refugee Support Core Group and outlined the steps taken so far. An overview of refugee experiences, the history of refugee work in the SSSIO, and finally the next steps the Core Group is taking were presented. The Core Group exists as a support and a guide for all refugee-related projects across the country. The goal is to learn from existing projects that are already underway, and to augment support to those projects, and help develop new projects through providing technical assistance and training, consultation, and resources, while also working towards a coordinated and systematic nationwide response to refugees in all regions.

4. Refugee Spotlight Breakouts 

The last section of the Refugee Spotlight was a series of breakout discussion groups focused on one of three different case scenarios, each case designed to cover a different phase of refugee resettlement and adjustment. The breakouts provided participants a hands-on opportunity to brainstorm on assigned scenario and then report back to the larger plenary. The level of creativity and enthusiasm for the service opportunities the scenarios would generate was extraordinary! During the plenary session, the groups built on each other’s work to clearly present alternative paths to approaching situations. The breakouts offered a wealth of perspectives and experience in how to work with refugees and their families in a loving and compassionate manner, in keeping with Sri Sathya Sai Baba’s injunction to serve the helpless.