Photos from Jenna Wess

Compassionate Guidance For Supporting Refugee Families: From A Kindred Fellowship Program Graduate

Editor’s Note: Jenna Wes is a graduate of 2021’s inaugural Kindred Fellowship Program cohort. You can read more about Jenna, and the KFP program, here. Kindred Fellowship’s mission is to guide college students on an innovative, educational journey that explores the systemic roots of social (in)justice in childhood through kindred activism: a theory of activism centering childhood that is authentic, reflexive and relational. Applications for the 2022 summer program open on March 1, 2022.

For the past six months, I have been on emergency humanitarian deployment, responding to a mass evacuation of refugees fleeing the unthinkable, in a leadership position, across three different safe havens in the United States.

As humanitarians, we can only hope to leave some small impact in the work that we do, but more often than not, are the ones who walk away changed. This has been one of the hardest and most profound jobs of my life, often working 7-day weeks at 17+ hour days, many of which were spent in tears that may or may have not been my own. 

Many have asked how they can help. And as we lie on the brink of yet another war, I ask of all of us, this:

1. Be kind and welcoming, always. Seek out the untold stories of your new neighbors. Ask them what they need and then listen.
2. Support organizations responding on the front lines.
3. And those supporting women and children, specifically. 
4. Reach out to your local resettlement agencies, offering nothing but your time.
5. Sponsor a family if you can, as an individual or as a community.
6. Don’t be afraid to look at the parts of yourself that need to change along with the world. Commit to growth – especially when it scares you.
7. And above all, let your empathy always win. Do not turn a blind eye to the sufferings of the world. Look without getting jaded. See the resiliency and humanity in your own reflection, and act from there. You’ll know what to do. 

The work is just beginning, as it always is, and while suffering still exists in this world, I plan to be there. But as I head out to a new but similar operation for the next six months, I am more inclined than ever to ask what, if anything, we are doing to prevent it. 

“This work”

and exhausting
drives me up a wall
and opens doors I never imagines
lays bare a wide range of emotions
yet leaves me feeling numb beyond belief
provides tremendous satisfaction
and leaves me feeling profoundly helpless
puts me in touch with deep suffering
and points me toward greater wholeness
renews my hope
and leaves me grasping for faith
breaks me apart emotionally
and breaks me open spiritually
leaves me wounded
…and heals me

(Ken Kraybill)

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