Covenanter Honored for Work in Resettling Refugees

Post a Comment » Written on October 26th, 2009     
Filed under: News
PORTLAND, OR (October 26, 2009) – Catholic Charities USA recently honored Covenanter Andrea Lee with its Volunteer of the Year Award for her work in resettling refugees.

Lee, the director of operations at New Life Covenant Church in San Jose, California, shared the award with two other women, Elsa Amboy and Melissa Kreisa. “They are incredible human beings who have recruited and galvanized a significant number of other volunteers who now, too, are passionate about welcoming and helping the stranger,” said Ellen Dumesnil, division director for Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County.

LeeNew Life sponsors a transition house in partnership with Catholic Charities and Sunnyvale Presbyterian Church, where Amboy and Kreisa are members, and provides significant assistance for several refugee families. The families include Muslims, Hindus, and Christians from Africa, Nepal, Burma, Iraq, and Afghanistan, says Pastor Kevin Budd.

In 2008, after becoming aware of trafficking issues through the Break the Chains initiative led by the Evangelical Covenant Church’s Department of Women Ministries, New Life’s congregation gave approval for the church to partner with Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County to help house and serve the needs of some of the 200 “free case” refugees who arrive in San Jose each year. Free case refugees arrive with no family or friends to sponsor them, so Catholic Charities serves that role.

Lee has guided the church’s work. She and her co-winners have helped link volunteers with stay-at-home refugee moms, spearheaded efforts to raise more than $200,000 in commitments for housing the newly arrived refugees, and initiated partnerships with other organizations such as the Salvation Army.

“While their work is very detailed and business-efficient, they never lose sight of the people, the human beings involved, and the human touch that’s essential for each and every person,” Dumesnil said.

Dumesnil recalled how Lee had helped to resettle two girls, ages 17 and 18, from Rwanda and who had met on the plane. “The 17-year-old had an immediate loving foster home to go to, but the 18-year-old was ineligible to be part of the same. She was placed in our refugee transition home.”

The 18-year-old was lonely and confused as to why she could not join the other girl.
“Thanks to the advocacy of Andrea, the 18-year-old now lives in a loving home with a couple that will provide nurture and guidance. Both girls now have support, community, and a bright future.”

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