-By Peter Gottemolller, LSW, Program Director
The young people in Lutheran Children and Family Service’s (LCFS) Unaccompanied Refugee Minor (URM) program have traveled through some very difficult times in their young lives. Victims of traumatic events such as war, extreme poverty, violence and oppression, they are survivors. With journeys as varied as their individual situations, they traveled this time to Mermaid Lake Swim Club in Blue Bell for a picnic sponsored and coordinated by the URM program and its staff. More than 50 youth from the program joined a dozen LCFS staff and more than 20 foster family members and mentors at the swim club, where they enjoyed swimming, basketball, soccer and other activities on a beautiful late summer afternoon.
The boys and girls in attendance come from more than a dozen different countries. Despite coming from very different places and different ethnic backgrounds, the youth find they have more in common with one another than differences. Most are between 16 and 20 years old and are working on similar educational goals. They love to eat; the picnic provided them with “all you can eat” hamburgers, hot dogs, drinks and snacks……….oh and ice cream too. Some have sports in common and friendly, but spirited games of soccer and basketball popped up throughout the afternoon. And, of course, they are connected through electronic media and exchange contact information with one another. LCFS program staff have found that the connections the youth make with one another at these events provide them with support and encouragement throughout the year.
LCFS brings these youth to the United States to give them opportunities and a real chance at success not available in their home countries or refugee camps. We bring them together for events such as this twice a year so that they know they are not alone in their journey here. Though most of their year is filled with trials—new culture, new language, school, part-time jobs, medical appointments, immigration forms, etc—events like this give them a chance to relax and have some fun with others who are engaged similar journeys.
About Lutheran Children and Family Service: LCFS is a non-profit social service agency providing a broad scope of services to a diverse clientele throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania. LCFS is a division of Liberty Lutheran.
About the LCFS Unaccompanied Refugee Minor program: LCFS offers traditional foster care and semi-independent living opportunities for foreign-born children who arrive in the Philadelphia region without their parents or legal guardians. Supported by the US Department of Health and Human Services, this program provides age-appropriate placements and support services intended to promote stability, acculturation, academic achievement and self-sufficiency.
For more information, contact Peter Gottemoller at 215-881-6800 ext. 227