TOLEDO, Ohio – U.S. Together is partnering with a Toledo Catholic parish to create a summer camp for women and children refugees – providing education, opportunities for networking, and information about American culture.
“The purpose of the summer camp is to educate women and children, to empower women to develop physical and language skills, and to provide cultural education and assimilation to their new country,” Corinne Dehabey from U.S. Together told CNA July 26.
“They also learn about all of the education, cultural, and sports activities available in their new community.”
U.S. Together was established in 2003 in response to the needs of immigrants in the central Ohio area. Teaming up with Christ the King Parish in Toledo and serving two dozen refugee families, the two will launch the summer camp for the first time this year.
Christ the King Parish began working with immigrants after middle school students heard current pastor Father Bill Rose give a homily about the affects of the war in Syria. In 2015, students collected 20 laundry baskets full of cleaning supplies, food, and the basic necessities for immigrating families.
Both Christ the King Parish and U.S. Together aim to serve anyone regardless of gender, religion, nationality, or ethnicity, but the summer program is limited to refugee children and mothers.
According to Cindy Robert, a volunteer and religion teacher at the parish, many of the women and children from Muslim countries have not experienced the diversity of ethnicities and religions in the U.S. A major aspect of the organization and the camp is getting refugee families to mingle with the community to experience culture outside of their social norm.
“We have been able to see them as individuals, and the longer we have the camp, the more they have come out of their shells, and we see their different personalities.”
Women and children will attend the five week summer camp three days a week for free. The summer camp will include a trip down the Maumee River, swimming lessons, art classes, and a visit to the Toledo Zoo.
Attending activities from 10-3 p.m. each day, refugees are also able to practice English, participate in local leisure activities, given transportation information, and helped with obtaining documents like library cards.
Although policies put in place by the Trump administration have influenced the process for migrants and split some families apart, Robert said Toledo has experienced an openness to immigrants, noting how unique individuals have been seen and not as “just a ‘bloc’ of refugees.”
“Personally, I have been able to have some good, long conversations with various refugees and they are able to ask me questions about life here, about grammar, about my children, etc. It’s opened my world a great deal!”