Report from the Frontlines – Helping Refugees in Chicago
Report from the Frontlines –
Helping Refugees in Chicago
by David Rose, November 2023
A note from Ginny: A couple of members of our community, David and Sarah Rose, have taken on towering leadership demands as they help Venezuelan migrants in Chicago. Thousands of refugees have been bussed up from Texas since last May. Here is a recent report from David—a moving example of Zen leadership in action:
We continue our volunteer efforts with the Venezuelan refugees continuing to arrive in Chicago. Our efforts have become both more personal and more complicated.
You might have seen reports coming out of Chicago about the large-scale response to the migrant crisis, as well as the backlash from some Chicago residents to the influx of new temporary housing centers. Our team is amassing data and firsthand accounts regarding the very trying conditions in these shelters in an attempt to draw attention and awareness.
Regarding the now more than 160 migrants currently in Oak Park, Sarah and I attended a marathon village council meeting on Nov 20th (6 1/2 hours) to make sure the migrant voices were heard as well as the voices of volunteers who have been working on this issue since May. We secured funding and housing through February. Volunteers stressed that we have been doing for months on our own what the village is struggling to do for days with almost a million dollars in funding, and that cooperation is imperative.
Sarah and I continue to collect, sort, and prepare donations for additional “Drops” (new arrivals via bus from Texas) and “Shower Days” which have become a regional draw, with refugees now coming from throughout all Chicago and even as far as Indiana to receive the clothing, hygiene and warming items they need.
This concept has expanded through the work of our friend to a so-called “Free Store” for those in need of items, which will also serve any homeless person or person in need. We have fond memories of the good work at the Spring Green Dojo and this reminds us a lot of that!
Regarding the new Venezuelan members of our family, they continue to heal, although the medical problems continue to mount due to lack of resources or official papers. Simple things we have taken for granted are new challenges. For example, the six-year-old only has 2 pairs of pants, and they are far too big around the waist. Together, he and I made a new leather belt for him, which he LOVES.
We brought our new family with us to celebrate Thanksgiving in Michigan. I pulled out a world map and let them begin to spill out their stories of the trek northwards. The trauma, human cruelty, and devastation of their spontaneous recollections, together with their courage, and humanity profoundly moved my whole family and friends, while these same small children who endured such crazy hardships laughed and played as “cats” under the table.
Tomorrow, we are meeting with the FBI regarding our concerns about human trafficking. We are also investigating multiple job options for our and other refugees including starting a new Venezuelan food delivery business. The food has been Amazing (with a capital A). We delivered their first order tonight. This is something they can actually do without a work permit.
Thank you for exhaling with us.
David and Sarah have set up a GoFundMe page for helping the Venezuelan refugees :
A fun update from Sarah:
Victor, the 6 year old boy who is staying with us, is always very interested when David and I practice meditation.
We are now sitting on our cushions on top of our bed because we have a family of 4 staying in the living room. We keep the doors open to let the cats go where they please (and not scratch the door relentlessly). So, every time we meditate, the kids see what is going on and they often come into the room to check on us. They are very respectful and silent. And just so curious.
Victor has been asking us a lot of questions about meditating. Yesterday evening, we got ready to meditate and he asked if he could meditate with us. We put a tiny cushion between us (the only space left on the bed) and told him to please leave silently after he has meditated enough. Much to our surprise, he sat with us for the whole 30 minutes!!!
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