A chance to live in peace and freedom

Helping refugees is an incredibly inspiring experience. The staff and volunteers at USCRI Erie have the privilege of seeing their resilience and perseverance in action every day.

We work with refugees like Lalit Rai. Lalit was born in Bhutan. His family had lived in Bhutan for four generations. They were part of a minority group whose cultural beliefs and traditions varied from the majority of Bhutanese. He and his family were persecuted by the government for their beliefs and finally their situation became so dire that they had no choice but to flee their homeland.

They reached a refugee camp in Nepal and had great hope for a new beginning. But they had to again put their hopes to live in peace and freedom on hold. Lalit and his family languished in this camp for sixteen years.

Like all too many refugees they were warehoused. Warehoused refugees are held in camps for five, ten, twenty years or more—usually unable to move about freely outside of the camp, earn a living, build a home, or otherwise live a normal life. While living conditions in these camps are often substandard, it is the boredom, frustration, and often the despair that really takes a toll on these innocent human beings as the years of their life pass by.

But finally after so many years, Lalit and his family got the opportunity to walk out of the camp for good as they were selected for resettlement in the U.S. Within just a few days they arrived in what would become their new home in Erie.

Our staff and wonderful volunteers meet refugees like Lalit and his family on the day they arrive and over the next year help them furnish an apartment, get their children in school, begin to adjust to American life, learn English and find a job.

Every time Lalit arrives for his ESL class, even on the coldest winter day, he has a big smile on his face. As he explains, “I take ESL classes and prepare for furthering my education to support myself and my family.”

His journey to Erie has not been easy. But he does not dwell on the past, he focuses on the future and the peace and freedom he and his family now enjoy.

You can learn more about volunteer opportunities to help refugees like Lalit. 

You can also make a tax-deductible donation online to help. 

Why I volunteer with USCRI Erie

Folding sheets, making beds and cleaning the kitchen 40 years of doing this for my family is a hard habit to break. Fortunately, I found out these are still very useful skills to have. I’ve been able to work as a volunteer with household donations; sorting, organizing, and on some special occasions, actually setting up complete new households for newly arrived refugee families.

Bridging the gap between generous donors and families that need everything for their new homes is a niche I’ve found very comfortable and rewarding.

It goes without saying that my world vision has expanded. What an opportunity to learn so many cultures and customs! But the refugees are full of hope for their lives in this promising, confusing new country. It’s a privilege to help ease their transition, even in so small a way as having a clean bed ready for them to rest in after days of exhausting travel.

-- Linda Ramsey

Become a volunteer today! 

Be a part of Sharing the Load, a 50 mile walk to raise support for USCRI Erie, March 18-20.

Attend Sharing the Load Concert and Reception at Villa Maria Academy on Saturday, March 20th at 7:00 pm. Learn more.

Two New Spring ESL Classes -- Weight Training and Knitting/Crochet Conversation Classes. Donations of yarn and needle/hooks are requested and gratefully accepted. Contact Brian or Katie (814) 452-3935.

Explore Presque Isle -- If you are a girl between the ages of 11-14 and have English as a second language, you are invited to participate in exciting outdoor events co-sponsored by LEA Earth Force and The American Association of University Women. Explore the Presque Isle Peninsula and its Waters at four After-School Sessions Enjoy Hiking, Boating, GPS, etc. while exploring career opportunities. Dates: Thursdays, April 22 & 29, May 6 & 13, 2010. Time: 3:10-6:30 (Light Dinner Included). For more information or to register call Mike at (814) 452-3935.

Face to Face Book Project -- Begins Monday, April 12 for qualifying ESL students from Wilson Middle School. Collegiate Academy is launching this pilot program in partnership with the International Institute of Erie that will meet weekly to provide vocabulary building and conversational English opportunities with volunteer student tutors from our local academic high school. All participants will be given their own Oxford Picture Dictionary.

International Community Garden -- Work will begin soon to prepare for this growing season. Many volunteers are needed, especially on mulch day! Contact Mike or Brian at (814) 452-3935, if you can help. We are hoping that refugees will be able to sell produce at farmer’s markets.

Ali Al Delfi Art Show -- Shuster Gallery at Gannon University will host a month-long show featuring the work of a gifted Iraqi refugee in June. More details coming soon.

Mark your calendar to celebrate World Refugee Day on June 20th. Planning for this exciting day is underway. Call Katie or Mike at (814) 452-3935 if you want to help plan this event of volunteer to help.

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