In mid-December, seventh-grade ELA classes began reading Alan Gratz’s best-selling historical fiction novel, “Refugee”. The novel follows the lives of three characters, on three continents during three different time periods, but all three of the characters have left their homes in search of a better life. Although the novel is historical fiction, many of the circumstances and references throughout the book are historically accurate. Reading about the harrowing challenges faced by the characters has raised the students’ awareness of the lengths to which others will endure to pursue a life of freedom and safety.
To help make current day connections, guest speakers from the non-profit organization, Houston Welcomes Refugees, visited seventh-grade ELA classes. Students learned many sobering facts: ½ of all refugees are children, less than 1% of the refugees are permanently “resettled”, refugees usually spend years in refugee camps in squalor conditions. Guest speakers, Allison Clayton and Becca Lehde, also led the students in a “loss” simulation exercise to drive home what it is like to lose loved ones, valued possessions, roles and one’s home.
In addition to visiting ELA classes, Allison Clayton and Becca Lehde led the middle school chapel and educated students about the life of refugees in Houston and how their organization helps refugee families during the difficult transition period by providing welcome kits to outfit their living quarters, move-in teams and partnering welcome teams to befriend refugees over longer periods of time. Leviticus 19:34 reminds us all, “The foreigners residing among you must be treated as native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”
All middle school students will be participating in the coming weeks in a service project led by Bible teachers to gather and assemble welcome kits for refugees right here in hometown Houston! To learn more about the organization, visit HoustonWelcomesRefugees.com.