Emily Pelton, executive director of Refugee Family Services in Stone Mountain, recently shared some holiday wishes, upcoming milestones and ways people can help the organization with Patch:
Does Refugee Family Services have a special 'holiday wish' this year -- a need you'd like taken care of before the start of 2013?
In addition to our daily work with clients, we often host community meetings and other resource days for the refugee communities we serve and our partner organizations at our offices in Stone Mountain. Many of these meetings include food or light refreshments, which means that our coffee maker and microwave get heavy use on a daily basis. Recently, both appliances broke, and we don’t have funding to buy new ones in our budget. It would be wonderful to replace these two critically-needed items with commercial grade appliances that could stand up to the heavy usage we require.
Approximately how many people have been helped by Refugee Family Services' programs in 2012?
In the last year, more than 2,000 women and children—and their families—have benefitted from Refugee Family Services’ programs, which focus on literacy, education, parental support, civic engagement, and economic self-sufficiency such as employment preparation and financial literacy.
Is there anything new or different that Refugee Family Services will be doing in 2013?
Refugee Family Services is celebrating a number of milestones in 2013: Our agency has turned 15 years old, and we will mark the occasion with a number of special events and themed communications throughout the year, highlighting the successes and contributions of staff, volunteers, and—of course—some of the tens of thousands of clients whom we have helped over the years.
In addition, our Pre-Kindergarten celebrates its 5th anniversary this year. Our 2012-13 class has 22 students who represent more than 10 nationalities and many more language groups. The program prepares 4 and 5 year olds to enter Kindergarten ready to learn and participate at high levels. It is one of only two Pre-Kindergarten programs in the country that concentrates on the unique needs of refugee children.
We also are tremendously fortunate and honored to be the sole beneficiary of the 2013 Cathedral Antiques Show, sponsored by the Episcopal Women of the Cathedral of St. Philip. The St. Philip’s community has embraced our mission and our programs wholeheartedly, and is actively preparing for the show, which will be held at The Cathedral from January 31st through February 2nd. This event is our major fundraising event for this fiscal year. The Cathedral Antiques Show has raised more than $3 million for Atlanta area nonprofits since its founding in 1969. Tickets to various events during the Show, including a tour of five homes in some of Atlanta’s most distinctive neighborhoods, are available now, with prices ranging from $15 for the antiques show alone to $125 for the gala preview party. All proceeds from the show will benefit Refugee Family Services. For more information about the Cathedral Antiques Show or to purchase tickets to the events, please visit www.cathedralantiques.org.
What's your favorite success story of 2012?
(All client names have been changed to protect confidentiality.)
At 17-months-old, Ram—who was born in a Bhutanese refugee camp in Nepal—weighed only 15 pounds.
Ram’s aunt, who was enrolled in RFS’s Parents as Teachers (PAT) program, knew that his development wasn’t normal. She also recognized that Ram’s mother Sita needed help. So she turned to Hira Chhetri, her RFS Parent Educator, for guidance.
“As soon as I saw him, I knew that Ram’s development was far behind what it should have been,” says Hira. “He was listless, significantly underweight, and made few sounds.” Hira immediately referred Sita and Ram to Babies Can’t Wait, Georgia's statewide early intervention program for infants and toddlers with developmental delays or disabilities.
Within a month, Ram and Sita had a comprehensive support network made up of monthly PAT home visits from Hira, bi-weekly home visits through Babies Can’t Wait, and regular pediatric care. Now almost 2-1/2 years-old, Ram is an active child. He can name objects in pictures and looks at books, and his weight and speech, although still delayed, have improved considerably. In addition to helping Sita develop her parenting skills, Hira interprets important information from Babies Can’t Wait and has helped Sita enroll in the RFS Family Literacy program, where she is learning English with the help of an in-home tutor.
“The very best thing was the first time little Ram ran to me and called me ‘Auntie Hira’,” says Hira with a big smile. “That’s when I knew I had truly made a difference.”
How can people help Refugee Family Services on an ongoing basis?
Refugee Family Services’ work in the community is strongly supported and enabled through the ongoing engagement of dedicated community volunteers. In FY 2012, more than 580 volunteers donated approximately 3,800 hours of service to our client programs, with an estimated in-kind value of $77,444. These individuals are integral members of our organization, strengthening many of our flagship programs such as Afterschool, One to One (individualized tutoring for students), and Family Literacy (in-home English tutoring for women). We also welcome skilled volunteers, who support our administrative and fundraising efforts, among others.
We also participate in the United Way of Metro Atlanta Annual Campaign, in addition to our own fundraising efforts. As a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, donations to Refugee Family Services are tax deductible.
Above all, we encourage everyone to be an ambassador for Georgia’s refugee community. Every year our state welcomes families escaping persecution, war, and violence across the world, and a network of nonprofit and faith-based organizations, private foundations, and public agencies help these new Americans get back on their feet and regain their self-sufficiency. Such newcomers are grateful for the opportunities afforded and work tirelessly to become productive members of their communities. For more information, visit our website, www.refugeefamilyservices.org or call 404-299-6217.