Refugee Children – Welcomed Aliens
25 January 2021
The children make-up half of the refugee population. Read this missionary’s first-hand account of how you can reach these traumatized refugee children.
“… I was a stranger and you welcomed me in…” (Matthew 25:35).
Though Christmas has passed, the Story has just begun. Soon after Jesus’ birth, his family had to flee – they were refugees, their flight was to Egypt – a foreign country, nationality, language, all very different and unfamiliar. Jesus’ story is similar to refugees today, most of whom are fleeing persecution, even death. Compared to many children today, however, Jesus had safety and security in several forms. As a baby, Jesus’ whole world was in the security of his mother’s arms. Both he and his mother felt the protection of Joseph, a husband, and father, to lead the way and keep them safe.
Safety and security are two basic needs of children everywhere.
Those who have grown past babyhood know the security of their families and homes. When they have been torn away; safety and security are gone and children suffer various types of trauma. Being a refugee always involves trauma.
In 2016*, children made up half of the refugee population. Some characteristics of child refugees from diverse countries remain the same: exposure to violence, tiresome travel, large levels of fears and trauma, separation from homes and sometimes families, language barriers, and disrupted education.
How can we help refugee children?
Knowing their background situations helps us to plan solutions to assist children and their families in relocation, integration, and restoration of fearful, hurting hearts.
Children who are with their families, or primary caregiver, and experience love and needed security usually have the most successful adjustment. However, they still have a variety of needs. Parents working to win the trust of their children is crucial to their involvement with them.
Families may need provisions to set up their homes. We can share in providing this with more than the basics, with welcoming baskets of food, toys, and child bedding for the children. Assisting with language and education are essential to full integration. Here is where believers have opportunities to teach or provide materials children need for learning; coaching parents in language and ways of our culture all build trusting relationships with the new family. We can open our church buildings to be centers for a variety of services, including education, health, or recreation. As we do so, we show care and share the love of Jesus to a child and his family.
Inclusion and integration with local families and children is another “key” to building a positive future for refugee children.
We can do this by inviting the newly arrived family to our home, fellowship groups, and community activities. Another meaningful way individuals can help refugees is by assisting them to get health care, including dental. Many come exhausted, malnourished, ill, and maybe never having seen a dentist. We can help them locate the local health centers, provide transportation, and possibly find locals to set up health or dental camps. The programs we set up must be varied to meet diverse needs. Working together with community leaders and others increases capacity as each can use their expertise.
If the refugees are in our care, we cannot neglect the traumas that have led to fears, psychological, mental, emotional, psychosocial problems, or the stresses of integrating into an unfamiliar society. We can get some training to recognize and identify symptoms and then find the resources needed for restoration.
These areas may seem difficult and we may not know where to begin. We cannot help what we do not understand, so do learn all you can about refugees and asylum seekers. However, giving compassionate care comes from the inside-out. If we desire to serve the strangers among us, we need to do so with sensitivity – listening to them and learning their individual stories. Children are often very resilient and as we show openness, interest, and genuine love in coming alongside them it is so rewarding to see them bloom – now planted into new soil.
*UNHCR Global Trends: forced displacement, 2016
About the author: Maggie is a missionary to India. She asks that we pray for the many believers who are now being persecuted within this country and for strength and peace for all those serving there.
We hope this article has enlightened and helped give you ideas on how to reach out to the child refugee population.