More than 21 million refugees worldwide - half of them children - have been forced to flee from war, persecution or natural disaster, according to the United Nations High Commission on Refugees.
In a local response to this global crisis, a Killingworth group is working to resettle a refugee family in the town or a nearby community.
A group of likeminded individuals formed the Killingworth Refugee Resettlement Coalition in December 2016, with the support of the Haddam-Killingworth Rotary Club and the Killingworth Women’s Organization, said Annie Stirna, the group’s co-chair and Rotary Club vice president.
“We hope to help address the refugee crisis by saving and changing lives one family at a time,” Stirna said.
The coalition is in the final stages of filing an application to resettle a family in co-sponsorship with New Haven-based Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS), one of three refugee agencies in Connecticut. IRIS has partnered with community groups throughout the state to help refugees become self-sufficient and get off to a strong start in their new home country after years of persecution and displacement.
Formed in 1982, IRIS has addressed the critical needs of more than 5,000 refugees – about 420 arrived in New Haven and surrounding towns in 2016. Refugees come from a wide range of war-torn countries, including Sudan, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, where almost 5 million people have fled from a devastating civil war.
In welcoming a refugee family, Killingworth would join more than 25 other communities across the state, including near neighbors Guilford and Old Lyme
"Once again, the generosity of the Killingworth community far exceeds our small population,” said First Selectwoman Catherine Iino. “I am moved and inspired that so many people have stepped forward in this humanitarian effort."
As a co-sponsor, the Killingworth Refugee Resettlement Coalition will secure affordable housing, collect furniture and household items, and help the family access medical care, Stirna said.
Co-sponsors also help to enroll children in school, assist with job searches, and perform other essential tasks while family members transition into their new surroundings. These include providing transportation, shopping for food and helping with English language skills.
While the application is still in process and the coalition is waiting to learn if and when it will be allocated a refugee family, there is plenty of preparatory work to be done, Stirna said.
“This is a wonderful opportunity to join together as a community and reach out to help a family begin a new life,” Stirna said. “We have many areas where we need assistance, and we welcome anyone who would like to help with this worthy effort.”
Volunteers who would like to assist with the resettlement effort should contact Annie Stirna or co-chair Lynn Clark at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The coalition will hold its first fundraiser on Friday, April 7, at the Whistle Stop Café, 108 Main Street, Deep River. Tickets are $35 pp for a 4-course meal (mostly vegetarian and gluten free). BYOB. Seatings are at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Checks should be made out to KWO, with “Refugee Resettlement Dinner” noted in the memo, and mailed to: 86 Bar Gate Trail Killingworth, CT 06419. Please note which seating you will be attending.