After the travel ban took effect earlier this year and the new US Administration stopped refugees from traveling to the US in January, RAFT (Refugee Assistance and Friendship Teams) contacted Refugee Focus, a branch of Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest, to see if there were refugees already here who could use the church’s help. The answer was yes, and the group has since befriended a mother and daugther from the Democratic Republic of Congo — Kiza Bilali and Zawadi Kashindi — who arrived in America about a year ago. Kiza is disabled and confined to a wheelchair, and her daughter is her full-time caregiver. Since RAFT befriended them, they have helped them in numerous ways: providing rent money, offering job assistance to Zawadi, and helping them find ways to practice their English and learn how to navigate the American system of banking, paying bills, budgeting, and becoming more independent in general. The team has provided a bicycle to Zawadi, and encouraged her to continue with the Women’s Empowerment Program and a Congolese Women’s Support group through Refugee Focus.


The team has also taken another refugee under its wing: Gediwon Abay, from Eritrea. Gediwon speaks Tigrinya/Amharic, his native languages, but he is also proficient in English and has a background in radio electronics and banking. The team has been working hard to find him employement in the cell phone repair or drone industries. He will work on a LinkedIn profile with the team’s help, and has already received help getting a mobile phone and a laptop. He is a Christian, and is now attending a church near his home. The team also provided clothes and household items to Gediwon, Zawadi and Kiza. Kiza also just received a motorized wheelchair which is a great improvement for her mobility and indepedence.


RAFT continues to look for ways to help their refugee families and promote friendship between our church family and their families. The two Syrian refugee families who arrived in July are doing well, with both men employed full-time in the hospitality industry, and the women working on crochet and knitting projects which they can sell as local venues, like Syrian Sweets Exchange 5.0. The children are all enrolled in school and receive tutoring from team members as needed. They are adjusting well to life in the US.


Adnan Radwan recently was interviewed by JP Coughlin to show how giving to PVUMC missions and ministries make a difference to the lives of others. His interview shows how he has been blessed, but the RAFTers have been blessed as well as we see our collaborative efforts come to fruition and watch our new friendships blossom. Adnan’s message is one that resonates across the spectrum of politics and religion and shows who our neighbor is and and how we can love our neighbors and welcome the stranger as Jesus’ followers.


Watch the video here:


For more information about RAFT, or to participate or donate, please contact RAFT coordinators: Keith Sobraske or Karen Ouzts.

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