Restoring Dignity #32
Saturday, April 13th, 2019
“What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.”
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Three years ago a Karen family of six were resettled from a refugee camp in Thailand to Omaha, Nebraska. Prior to coming to America, they had spent 15 years as refugees, fleeing their home country of Burma. And prior to being refugees, they had lived peacefully in the countryside; mom was a farmer and dad was a boat driver. Neither had a formal education, with mom completing zero years of school and dad graduating from second grade. When the civil war in Burma escalated to a life-threatening point in their community, they fled, leaving everything behind. Escaping to a refugee camp on the border between Burma and Thailand, mom and dad met each other, got married, and began a family. Even with the trauma of war, they wanted to live a normal, happy life. In 2016, they found out that they had been accepted to come to the United States, and so they packed up their life in the camps and began the process of being resettled to another country. To date, there are 37 countries in the world that accept refugees, with less than one percent of displaced people being resettled each year. The other 99% wait for their opportunity.
Moving to Omaha was an eye-opener for the family. Within 90 days, with no English language skills, the father had to begin working to pay their rent and all their bills, as federal funding only provides 90 days of support. Additionally, the family (and every refugee family coming to the U.S.) had to begin paying back their debt of being resettled. For this family, they owed $5,500. It may come as a surprise, but refugees coming to America have to repay the cost of being resettled. As the mom said, “Nothing in America is free.” Dad began working at a meat packing plant, and his checks covered rent, bills, and some of the utilities. In their two bedroom apartment, the water bill was very high and the family didn’t know why. They began conserving water, to get the bill down. First, dad started taking showers at work, then mom started to take showers less frequently. If dad got less hours at work, they would have to borrow money from friends to pay their utilities.
Shortly after moving to their apartment, the family discovered that if was infested with bed bugs and cockroaches. “In Thailand, we don’t have bed bugs,” said the dad. “You can take your shirt off at night and sleep peacefully. But here, you can’t sleep because you’re worried about being bit.” To make matters worse, the bed bugs began feeding on the children, causing sleepless nights, anxiety, and scars on their skin. This was unacceptable to their parents, who decided they would fight back in a way they knew they could: every night, for three years, they have gotten up multiple times in the night to pick bed bugs off of their children’s skin, so they don’t get bit. For three years, they have been successful, and the kids do not have bites on their bodies. However, this has come at the expense of both parents losing tremendous amounts of sleep.
When the family first moved in to their apartment, they began reporting issues to maintenance, but every time they would come to fix things, the family would get charged. The family did not have extra money to pay every month for maintenance, so they stopped calling for repairs. When Restoring Dignity met with this family and viewed their apartment, the toilet was not fastened to the ground, the bathroom sink would not turn on (except for a small dripping of foul-smelling yellow water), there was horrible cockroach and bed bug infestation, and the kitchen sink kept having water shoot up and go all over the floor (mom says it’s filled with laundry soap, which she believes is backing up from the laundry room that’s next to their unit).
Despite the hardships and challenges faced since 2016, the family was hopeful and looking forward to a time when they could buy their own home. However, two months ago, on January 26th, 2019, dad had to be rushed to the hospital for emergency bowel perforation surgery. He had stomach pains for a long time and knew something was wrong, but he was terrified that if he took time off work and went to see a doctor, that he wouldn’t make enough money to pay rent. So he endured the pain, hoping it would go away. It didn’t. And he has been out of work for two months, recovering from surgery that left him with an eight inch scar on his stomach.
A social worker who has been helping the family navigate getting financial aid to stay afloat while dad recovers from his surgery, saw their apartment, and thought they would greatly benefit from a Restoring Dignity home makeover project and housing advocacy. We met with the family, listened to their story, documented their needs, and they were beyond ecstatic for volunteers to come in, bring house items they need, and teach them how to use American cleaning supplies. In addition, Restoring Dignity will be providing them with housing advocacy to get their maintenance and infestation issues fixed. We are also going to help the family get setup on a level payment plan for their water, gas, and electric bills, so they are not surprised by high bills in the summer or winter.
To bring this family what they need and to transform their apartment into a place where they can thrive, we need YOUR help! Join us on Saturday, April 13th, 2019!
We are taking action on Saturday, April 13th 2019 from 10am-2pm, to provide this family with much-needed household, cleaning and organizational items. Come join us as we bring hope and encouragement to them!
- Pantry shelf
- Shelving unit to sit on counter next to sink (see picture with red outline) — family would like shelf to store dishes
- Saran wrap
- Aluminum foil
- SOS pads
- Drawer liners
- Trash bags (kitchen-size)
- Spice rack
- Coffee pot with coffee maker (dad wants to use for keeping water hot)
- Coffee table
- TV (family currently has no TV…Dad’s wish list item is a smart TV where he can watch the news on YouTube, as that is how he is teaching himself English. Mom’s wish list item is a smart TV too, as she wants to listen to choir music)
- TV Stand
- Computer chair
- Recliner chair
- Decorations (dad likes the color dark blue, and mom likes orange and green)
- Pictures (can be Christian themed)
Twin mattress Twin day bed (2) Twin bed bug cover Twin comforter Twin sheets (2) new pillows Floor lamp Curtains Curtain rod
- Office supplies (notebooks, pens, pencils, etc)
- Paper organizer (to store important mail and documents)
- (2) Hanging shoe racks (bedrooms)
(2) twin bed bug covers (4) new pillows
- (2) twin comforters
(2) twin sheets
- Night stand
- Table lamp
- Decorations for 13 y/o girl and 12 y/o boy
- Shower curtain
- Shower liner
- Hand towels
- Body soap
- Bath rug
- (2) twin mattresses
(2) twin box springs
- (2) twin frames
- (2) twin headboards and footboards
- (2) twin comforters
(2) twin sheets (4) twin bed bug covers
- Small rug
- Table lamp
- Decorations/pictures (for dad and 6 y/o boy)
- Kitchen Degreaser (non- ammonia)
- Mr. Clean (non-ammonia)
- Bathroom cleaner
- SOS pads
- Oven cleaner (surface and inside of oven)
- Toilet bowl cleaner
- Toilet bowl brush
- Magic erasers
- Extra-large trash bags
- Disposable gloves for volunteers (need size medium)
FAMILY WISH LIST
- 4 year old girl: teddy bear and children’s books
- 6 year old boy: would like Ninjago legos (he only has a few balls as toys), books and durable learning toys (he is struggling in kindergarten and is having difficulty learning his letters)
- 12 year old boy: would like legos (he only has a bike and a soccer ball as toys) and books
- 13 year old girl: would like make-up and books
RESTORING DIGNITY NEEDS
- Lunch for afternoon and all-day volunteers (pizza, sandwiches, etc.), served at 12pm
- Bottled water for volunteers (30-40 bottles)
- Large laundry baskets (to keep family belongings together during our projects)
- Masking tape
- Picture hanging kit
- Mops (ours have gotten old and are falling apart over the years)
- Mop buckets
There are two ways to drop-off items: (1) At our storage unit, or (2) on the day of the project at the family’s home. If you plan on dropping off donations at the family’s home, please contact us for their address, and plan on having all items dropped off between 9:30am-10:00am the day of the project.
Storage Unit Location:
The Restoring Dignity storage unit is located in the garages behind the Omar Baking Building (4383 Nicholas St. Omaha, NE, 68131)–the storage unit is in a fenced-in lot on the corner of 45th and Izard street.
Drop-offs at the storage unit will be on the following dates and times:
Saturday, March 30th, 2019 12pm-2pm
Saturday, April 6th, 2019 12pm-2pm
**Please note that there will not be any pick-ups for this project. If you are bringing large items, you can drop them off at the location mentioned above, or you can bring them the day of the project.**
- Saturday, April 6th, 2019Pre-Shift: 12:30pm-2:30pm, at the Restoring Dignity Storage Unit: This shift involves getting donations ready for the project date. At the Restoring Dignity Storage Unit.
- Saturday, April 13th, 2019, at the family’s home: Transportation: 8am-10am: This shift involves loading items onto trucks at the storage unit, and unloading them at the family’s home. We will provide a U-Haul truck.
- Shift one: 10am-12pm: This shift is for people who want to help with cleaning, organizing clothes, steaming and fixing and building items.
- Shift two: 12pm-2pm: This shift is for people who want to help with organizing clothes, moving furniture and decorating.
- Full Day: 10am-2pm: This shift is for someone who is looking for a full-immersion with Restoring Dignity and/or wants to be a project leader.
- Handyperson shifts: This shift is for a person who is skilled with tools, can help fix broken items in the home, can assemble beds and other furniture, and can hang pictures.
Sign up for shifts can be found at the Restoring Dignity Sign-Up Page.
How to Get Involved:
- Donate items:
We could not do these projects without our donors! They are the heart of these projects! Please let us know what you can donate, and we will take the items off of the list above. If someone would like to “adopt” a member of this family or a room in the apartment, by fulfilling the donations needed for that area, let us know. Otherwise, if you have any items in your house that you no longer need or use, please consider donating them to these projects. Your donations truly do make a direct impact on families in need. To donate items to this family, visit our donation sign up page.
For this project, we need a minimum of 35 volunteers spaced out over the course of four hours. Our volunteers will clean, organize, decorate, hang pictures, lay down rugs, and build beds. and The more volunteers, the faster we can accomplish our goal. We would love to have you join our team! Please visit our Restoring Dignity Sign-Up Page to add yourself to one of our two-hour shifts.
- Donate financially
As Restoring Dignity has grown so have our basic operating expenses. We now have our own storage facility where we accept, sort and store all of our donations. We pay monthly rent and utilities and are dependent on the financial contributions that we receive. If you are interested in making a financial contribution, please click here.
- Spread the word:
Tell your friends and family about this project! They might have an extra lamp or a dresser that is no longer in use. Re-post this blog on your Facebook page, or email it to people you know. The more people that know about these projects, the more donations and volunteers.
Follow us on Facebook:
Restoring Dignity has a Facebook Group that is regularly updated. Please join our group: Restoring Dignity Omaha Facebook Group.