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By June 20, 2024June 25th, 2024Blog

At Spurwink, the ShifaME program supports refugee children and families by providing case management, counseling, school groups and outreach. The refugee children and families in our program come to us with their stories of forced displacement and experiences of persecution. On World Refugee Day we pause to welcome, support and celebrate the children and families that have come to our state and to our country as refugees.  Per the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, this year’s theme for World Refugee Day is “Hope away from home – a world where refugees are always included.” At Spurwink, we strive for a world where there is hope away from home for the children and their families that we are lucky enough to work with in our ShifaME program.

Here are two reflections from ShifaME team members Audrey Chapman, LCPC-c and Lariska Bengehya on World Refugee Day which is celebrated globally on the 20th of June.

Lariska Bengehya is a Care Coordinator/Cultural Broker on the ShifaME team. She works with children and their families in the Portland and South Portland areas.

As of 2024, statistics show that there are over 120 million displaced individuals due to conflict and violence. Many of these people have forgotten what it means to have a normal life, and sadly, others have never experienced it. Today we celebrate those who conquered stress and trauma in the quest for safety away from home, abandoning everything, risking their lives, and losing loved ones along the way in the pursuit of a better future for themselves and their families. On this special day, it is important to recognize the efforts of our country’s federal, state, and local governments to assist refugees through safe immigration policies and their support to social agencies and organizations working with refugees in their resettlement process. New Americans, especially asylum seekers have many internal and external battles. They need guidance in their path to independence and stability. World Refugee Day is a time to celebrate those that have courageously come to this country; it is also a golden opportunity to advocate for more funding to expand social services to migrant dense areas and broaden the range of services accessible to refugees through appropriate routes. Many refugees leave their home countries with visions that get suffocated by the stress of resettling in a structurally, systematically, and culturally different place. We must remind them that their dreams don’t have to die with their former lives and provide adequate support for individuals and families to thrive and give back to their respective communities.

Audrey Chapman, LCPC-c, is a licensed clinician on the ShifaME team. She provides clinical services to students at Lewiston Middle School and Lewiston High School. She shares below her experiences growing up in rural Maine and how she came to the ShifaME team.

Growing up on a small farm in Western Maine, who knew my career would be so heavily influenced by the example my parents set after their time in the Peace Corps. On the ShifaME team, I feel proud to work with refugee students and their families as they find their home in Lewiston and I can trace my passion back to the exposure and multi-cultural experiences my parents shared with me in my youth.

Growing up, I heard so many stories about my parents’ two years in Sri Lanka during their time in the Peace Corps and the heartfelt relationships they built there. We shared Sri Lankan culture, dress, and food preparation together and with our local community. My mother made yearly presentations at the junior high school about her experience. We looked at pictures, were curious, imagined, listened carefully, and asked questions. These are life lessons I continue to practice in my clinical role in the ShifaME program.

World Refugee Day holds a special place in my heart. It is a day set aside to explore ideas and thoughts about diverse human experiences. It is a time to hold close, empathize and look carefully at stories and emotions. I am honored to do the work of a ShifaME Clinician here at Spurwink, humbly learning what new meaning can come from considering the idea of being a global citizen.