Local organization informing community about refugees

Ann Mundy, of First Congregational Church in Southwick, hands a hygiene kit to Leo Shut, an Ascentria Refugee Resettlement Coordinator. (Photo from Ann Mundy/The Westfield News)

SOUTHWICK, Mass. (The Westfield News) – With over 60 million refugees worldwide, several of them look to start a new life in America.

Locally, a group of churches are working together to help and welcome refugees that are trying to settle in the area.

W.A.R.M. (Welcoming Assistance Refugee Ministry), consists of people from a number of churches in the communities of Southwick, Westfield, Agawam, and Chicopee.

Shirley Anderson, who is one of the lead organizers of W.A.R.M., says that the group has partnered with Ascentria Care Alliance, who has an office in Westfield. Ascentria creates new partnerships in order to open the door to more opportunities to those in need, like refugees.

According to Anderson, Ascentria helps refugees assimilate into the community by helping them out with their living situation, giving them food, and other necessities that they may need.

While also working with Ascentria, W.A.R.M. is holding community gatherings in another effort to help local refugees.

“The purpose of these community gatherings is to hear about the process of refugee resettlement,” said Anderson.

The first meeting happened in November and mainly centered on the vetting process. Anderson said that some of the discussion was about the stringent process that involves vetting and was an informational meeting for everyone in attendance.

The next meeting will take place on January 12 at 6:30 p.m. at the American Inn in Southwick. The second meeting, which is called, “Welcoming Newly Arrived Refugee Families: The Settlement Process,” will focus on providing information to the public about refugees and how they can be helped.

Mohammed Najeeb, who is the Program Director for New Americans Services for Ascentria, will be the guest speaker at the meeting.

Anderson hopes that all the information Najeeb will provide, along with the assistance from W.A.R.M., the community will be more aware with what refugees have to go through when trying to start their life over.

“In knowing more, we will understand more, and we will be more welcoming,” said Anderson.

Anderson advises that those who plan on attending the meeting on January 12, to call Anderson at 998-3760. Refreshments will be provided at the meeting.