People from different cultures forging outstanding understanding. This is the scene Sunday afternoons in Scotch Plains, when Refugee Assistance Partners NJ (RAP NJ), an all-volunteer non-profit grass-roots organization, runs "Sunday Sharing", bringing together refugees and volunteers from Scotch Plains, Fanwood, and other local towns.
Anne Goetz, co-vice president for RAP NJ, says they used to call it "ESL and tutoring," but now call it "Sunday Sharing," a name which more accurately reflects the wide range of interactions and the bonding that goes on at many levels between all who come together.
"We all share our expertise with the refugees. They in turn share with us the beauty of their culture and the beauty of their selves," said Goetz.
RAP NJ volunteers ask what the needs of the refugees are, and then come to understand and try to meet those needs, Goetz added.
RAP NJ currently assists five families, all of whom are originally from countries in Africa. Many of the families include children.
"The young people here are absolutely brilliant", said Carolyn Daurio, a volunteer driver, who also joins in to help in other ways, such as tutoring. "They're almost all outgoing, giving... It's just astonishing," she said.
Sunday Sharing is held most Sundays at Willow Grove Church in Scotch Plains from 1:30 to 3:00 p.m. Everyone enjoys a meal together, and then breaks up into groups and pairs.
Both adult and teenage volunteers are helping refugees with their schoolwork in one room. In yet another room, a family is learning English. Smiles light up on faces of the refugee family members, as they build confidence reciting the English alphabet and correctly identifying body parts and vocabulary words. When changing the singular of both "woman" and "child" to plural, the pronunciation of the first syllable changes, even though the first syllable is written with the same letters, explain the volunteers. English is often the third or fourth language the refugees will have learned, but is essential to success in their resettlement in the U.S. One family is being taught how to get a bus pass and use an EBT card to purchase food.
Volunteers have become like family with the refugees. When it's time to leave Sunday Sharing for the day at 3:00, some of the volunteers can be seen hugging refugees, especially student volunteers saying good-bye to their refugee peers, even though most of them will meet again the following Sunday. The bond is strong.
The Fall kick-off of the Sunday Sharing program will be held on Sunday, Sept. 15, starting at 1:30 p.m. at Willow Grove Presbyterian Church (downstairs), 1961 Raritan Rd, Scotch Plains.
"There will be a number of new potential volunteers attending to learn about many different opportunities", said Jill Segulin, president of RAP NJ. "[These opportunities include] volunteering at Sunday Sharing, with RAP behind-the-scenes, and also with the refugee families in their host communities", she said.
"Please come at 1:30 pm to share a communal meal with volunteers and refugee families together, then everyone can browse stations describing all the work we do and talk with other RAP volunteers", added Segulin. Please RSVP to Segulin at email@example.com
. One can also contact Segulin at that email address for more information.
In addition, a monthly meeting of RAP NJ will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 17, at 7:30 p.m., at Willow Grove Church, upstairs in the Kiep Lounge. One may attend the Sept. 15 Sunday Sharing, the Sept. 17 meeting, or both.
Of the Sept. 17 meeting, Segulin remarked, "This is a great way to learn a little bit more about the 'big picture' regarding RAP's mission, goals, and activities, get information about the landscape of resettlement in our area and what challenges refugees face, as well as hear all the latest developments and news about RAP and the families we serve--past and present. There will also be an opportunity to hear about the five standing committees at RAP, how each supports our work, and what you can do to give direct and/or indirect help to refugees who have resettled in our area."
No RSVP is required for the September 17 meeting. Even if one is not able to attend on September 15 or September 17, they can contact Segulin for information about joining in as a volunteer in future weeks or months.
is "an interfaith partnership helping refugees (settled in the Union County area) find a path to self-sufficiency with dignity."