Important Bridge Work in 2013: An End-of-Year Review of Daraja

The following is a year-end review of the work done in Daraja, the non-profit refugee ministry I founded with friends in 2012:

We made it! We survived our first full year as a refugee empowerment agency!

Words can’t express my ap-preciation for your support of Daraja’s first full year of operation in 2013, though maybe a few pictures will help … Your prayers, gifts, and service played a crucial role in getting Daraja off the ground and running. In this brief year-end letter, I wish to not only fully thank you all, but give you a broad overview of what we accomplished, as well as present a quick look at what 2014 might hold for us.

 

2013 IN REVIEW

Daraja began with one simple goal — to help recently-resettled refugees make a successful transition into their new communities and neighborhoods, particularly after assistance from traditional refugee services and agencies has ended.

In the fall of 2012,the Daraja Lead Team organized and started coaching the members of one Congolese family of fourteen. Throughout 2013, we continued to work with this family, particularly the teenage daughters, providing them with extra English-language learning opportunities, field trips to various locations, and friendships.

The experience was so successful that we recruited new volunteers in two different training sessions, and began working with another family of 8. A third family is about to be introduced to their new coaches.

We also began a tradition of monthly Family Outings, in which we invite all the families with which we work. We have been to the Dallas Zoo, watched a 3D movie with refugee children, and celebrated Christmas with the people of Cornerstone UMC.

This basic coaching relationship is at the heart of what we do. We believe that the most important thing that we can do for refugees is to become their friends, and walk alongside them in their new life situation.

But that is certainly not all we do!

Besides these primary relationships, we have found ourselves with the opportunity to expand our services. In the spring, we discovered the need for continued children’s education during the summer. With the help of dedicated volunteers, led by Beverly Lenoir, and the assistance of the DISD Refugee Relations staffperson, Zeljka Ravlija, we sponsored a four-week summer school at the Indigo Apartments, where we averaged over 30 children in attendance per day!

Over the summer, Daraja was honored by being named the official local ministry of the North Texas Conference Council on Youth Ministries, meaning that we will be a recipient of Youth Service Funds, and that the youth of the Conference want to be involved with our work. Led by Brooke Foster, the youth of the North Central District held a district  Mission Day to benefit Daraja. They constructed and painted four Little Free Libraries, and donated books and other reading materials. Those libraries now are situated at three different apart-ment complexes around Dallas which house refugee com-munities!

In the fall, Daraja was invited to become a Service Learning site by Richland College. After sponsoring a table at the college fair, a number of Richland students expressed interest in working with Daraja. Over the course of the fall semester, they helped Daraja hold a series of five weekend Youth Club events at the Indigo Apartments for refugee teens.

And that’s not all we did! Now that Daraja is housed at #611 in the Indigo Apartments, we have found needs popping up around us all the time. We’ve helped a family relocate after an apartment fire, distributed diapers and baby clothes, and spent lots of time sipping coffee with the elderly Iraqi couple next door.

Daraja volunteers attend the monthly Dallas Area Refugee Forum, speak to people about their experiences at conferences and exhibits, and provide transportation for refugees in need.

All of this has happened because of you, and we are grateful.

 

FORWARD IN 2014

Refugees continue to arrive in Dallas at a steady pace, particularly from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Daraja believes that we have an advantage in working with this population in particular, thanks to the work of Jacob and Ceciliah, our Kenyan pastor friends.

We are constantly looking for ways to fulfill our goal of helping these newcomers thrive, and in 2014, we anticipate sponsoring our second summer school, improving our English language learning program, and focusing more attention on refugee teenagers. We plan to apply for a number of grants to fund these initiatives.

But we also have a very exciting announcement to make:

Starting January 1, 2014, Daraja will be officially linked to the ministry of Greenland Hills United Methodist Church in Dallas! Pastor Kerry Smith and the church Leadership Team have agreed to handle the accounting and bookkeeping of Daraja funds, as well as provide a number of people to serve on our new Board of Directors, to meet for the first time in February 2014. This announcement comes on the heels of the news that the North Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church has officially recognized Daraja as a ministry of the Conference.

All of this is incredibly good news for our ministry. Greenland Hills UMC will provide the accountability and stability that Daraja needs to build and grow in the future.

I am also extremely grateful for the service that the Missional Wisdom Foundation has provided us over the past year in managing our funds. Thank you, Larry Duggins and Elaine Heath!

 

HOW TO HELP

To put it bluntly, the best way that you can be a part of Daraja’s success in 2014 is to be a financial partner. We have only a very few financial obligations, but they are large.

Rent for the office costs $475/month, plus approximately $35 for water and garbage, $40 for electricity, and $30 for wireless internet service.

In the past year, my own salary support has come from a variety of sources, including the Missional Wisdom Foundation, FUMC Rowlett, Daraja fundraising, and other contract work. But I face no certain salary as I enter the new year.

I am uncertain about my immediate future, but I have absolute confidence that the work of Daraja will go forward, from strength to strength, from grace to grace.

You are invited to become a partner with the work, by making a one-time gift, or a monthly pledge. You may contribute financially by going to the Greenland Hills UMC website, http://tinyurl.com/mlqs6ol, and creating a simple account to give securely.

Again, thank you for making 2013 a resounding success, and paving the way for a bright future for the men, women, and children who have been displaced and are rebuilding their lives in our midst.

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