A New Way to Say, “You Are Welcome Here”

December 20, 2021

Luci Lights at the backpack assembly event in Oklahoma this summer.

When you support CWS, you are at the forefront of responding to displacement in our world. When a family is uprooted because of a hurricane or tornado, you are there with blankets and supplies to provide immediate relief. When war and persecution drive entire communities to flee their homes in search of safety, you are there providing protection along the journey. When persecuted people seek asylum in the United States, you can be there to provide legal services and relief supplies. We are proud that we are one of only nine agencies that helps the U.S. government to resettle refugees in new, permanent safe lives here in the United States. CWS supporters are there at the airport and setting up new apartments to say “welcome.”

When people seeking asylum are released from government custody to await their court date, a network of CWS-supported respite shelters welcomes them with open arms and much-needed services: a warm place to sleep, good food to eat, a chance to bathe and space to rest for a day or two.

Asylum seekers often arrive with few material possessions, but thanks to donors, we provide unaccompanied children and families with the essentials for the next phase of their journey: food and water, children’s activities, a blanket, basic hygiene items and personal protective equipment, all packed in a sturdy backpack. These CWS Welcome Backpacks of carefully chosen items are a comfort and critical resource for the days ahead.

Rev. Belase helped assemble CWS Welcome Backpacks in Oklahoma this summer.

“We are excited to have the Welcome Backpacks as a new part of our work to welcome asylum seekers on the U.S.-Mexico border,” says Bethany Showalter, Associate Director for Asylum and Border Services, CWS. “I know that families will appreciate having the supplies on their long bus and plane journeys to their destinations. Thank you to everyone who donates time, money and supplies to fill these backpacks.”

One group of CWS supporters gathered in August in Edmond, Oklahoma to assemble 1,000 CWS Welcome Backpacks – with the intention of providing them to asylum seekers. As we gathered, Afghanistan fell to the Taliban and thousands of Afghans started arriving on military bases in the United States. We quickly readjusted our focus and were able to ship backpacks to our teams across the United States to deploy for these newest neighbors. Many of these families left Kabul with nothing but the clothes on their backs and hope for a better life. It was amazing to think, as we placed each item into the backpacks, that with this gesture, we would offer a sense of welcome to human rights defenders, members of particularly vulnerable groups and people who had risked their lives to serve our country in times of peril.

“The CWS Welcome Backpacks came just in time to help Afghans, but are also a tangible way to support other displaced people,” says Rev. Rebekah Belase, Senior Director of Funds Development and the organizer of the backpack assembly event.

CWS corporate partner, MPOWERD (maker of Luci Lights), donated solar powered, inflatable lanterns to be included in this group of 1,000 backpacks. This additional item is perfect for providing soft light on long bus rides… light that allows a parent to do activities with their child or light the way during a rest stop.

The cost of each Welcome Backpack is roughly $75, but the impact is priceless. To learn more about the Welcome Backpacks, go to: cwsglobal.org/backpacks