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Life in a Pandemic

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If there is anything constant in life, other than death and taxes, it is this: Plans Change. COVID-19 has altered all our plans. College and lower level school classes are being held online. Graduations have been canceled; proms, too. We don’t run out to the store to purchase something just because we think we need it. We’re being more careful how we spend money, because our continued employment is not assured. First time homebuyers: how are they going to make their house payments? This is the story for the middle class.

But what about those living paycheck to paycheck, or on public assistance, or without income at all? According to an article written in Marketwatch.com in May 2019 (before the new coronavirus hit), millions of Americans are one paycheck away from financial disaster.

“Certain communities were more prone to economic hardship in the event of missing a paycheck. Roughly two-thirds of households earning less than $30,000 annually and Hispanic households would be unable to cover basic living expenses after missing more than one paycheck, the researchers [from the Federal Reserve] found.”

Consider, then, those persons who are barred from receiving unemployment compensation, TANF and SNAP benefits. Consider the two families seeking asylum in the United States that WVIRM is resettling in Charleston, West Virginia. Employment comparable to what they held in their native countries has not been possible due to limited English fluency and professional licensing requirements. Like Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire, they are depending “on the kindness of strangers.” Strangers such as you and me. 

In strange times such as these, donations to charitable organizations decline. Understandably so. But there are still ways you can help WVIRM help the families we support. Here are a few examples:

  • When shopping BOGO deals, donate your extra item. We’ll pick it up.
  • Do you receive items from a food pantry you don’t like or need? We’ll pick those up, too.
  • Hand sanitizer, alcohol wipes, bars of soap – anything to help combat the virus – would be appreciated. 
  • Bus passes are needed. You can buy these online and mail them to our office at PO Box 5387, Charleston, WV 25361.
  • Share this article on social media. The wider the audience, the greater the potential for help.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) contains incentives for charitable giving:

Charitable Giving Incentive: Creates a new above-the-line deduction (universal or non-itemizer deduction that applies to all taxpayers) for total charitable contributions of up to $300. The incentive applies to cash contributions made in 2020 and can be claimed on tax forms next year. Section 2204. The law also lifts the existing cap on annual contributions for those who itemize, raising it from 60 percent of adjusted gross income to 100 percent. For corporations, the law raises the annual limit from 10 percent to 25 percent. Food donations from corporations would be available to 25 percent, up from the current 15 percent cap. Section 2205.    

Plans change. Life as we knew it is different. What doesn’t change, what hasn’t changed, is the can-do spirit of the American people. West Virginians, in particular, have a history of helping their neighbors. Mountaineers are strong, resilient, proud, creative and compassionate. 

WVIRM was founded by people of faith who wanted to put their faith into action. Let’s put feet to our faith. Together, following the guidelines of trusted health professionals, we will survive this pandemic and come out better on the other side.

Please share your ideas of how to help each other and the two families we support, while maintaining safe health practices. And, if you are able, please use the donate button to make a financial contribution.

2019 A Good Year For Asylum Seekers in Charleston

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In 2019, WVIRM welcomed and assisted 3 asylum seeking families right here in Charleston, WV. Two have stayed here, and with WVIRM’s help the children are enrolled and thriving in school, and the adults are rapidly learning English and adapting to life in our community. All four adults obtained work permits and found jobs, and we at WVIRM heard high praise from their employers. Unfortunately, governmental policies respecting work permits for asylum seekers are currently causing a gap in employment, as one category of work permit has expired for all of them, and they have to wait for work permits in the next category. But WVIRM, thanks to your generosity, is keeping them safe, housed and fed, until they can move again toward independence as soon as the next category of work permits arrive. 

LEADERSHIP

Through the generosity of our donors, and through local grant funding, we have hired an Executive Director, Betty Ann (BA) Miskowiec, director@wvirm.com, and she is greatly expanding WVIRM’s ability to recruit volunteers to help our current families, and to further our efforts to bring more asylum seeking families to our community. We also have not given up hope of someday seeking approval once again from the U.S. State Department to bring refugees for resettlement in our beloved West Virginia.

EDUCATION

Through a partnership with the Islamic Association of West Virginia, WVIRM has also funded scholarships for four West Virginia students, with refugee, asylee or Temporary Protected Status, to continue their studies at Marshall University and WVU. We are so proud of these hardworking WV student scholars! We have also funded, through a donation to the Syrian American Medical Society, the living expenses of 8 medical student who have fled Syria and are studying medicine in Turkey. 

ADVOCACY


WVIRM is also working hard to educate our community members about the migrant crisis. WVIRM participated in Civil Rights Day at the Legislature, and continues to update our representatives in government. We have attended religious and community meetings and events, giving informational talks, and handing out well researched, accurate information on the crisis. 

With ACLU West Virginia, we sponsored the movie “Midnight Traveler” at the Floralee Hark Cohen Underground Cinema. Afghan filmmaker Hassan Fazili and his family were forced to flee their country when the Taliban put a bounty on his head. This documentary was well-received and provided insight into some of the difficulties our asylees have faced in their journey toward freedom.

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT


It truly does take a village. Please help WVIRM continue to grow, and to provide safety, right here in West Virginia, for asylum seeking families who are so grateful for a chance to live and work among us. WVIRM is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization, and your donation can be sent by check to WVIRM P.O. Box 5387, Charleston, WV 25361, or you can donate  online by clicking on the “WVIRM donate button” at http://www.wvdiocese.org/pages/aa-egiving.html the egiving page of our fiscal agent, the WV Episcopal Diocese. Donations are tax deductible to the extent provided by law. 


Thank you so much for your support of WVIRM. Together we are saving lives and growing our community! Best wishes for the holidays and a safe and Happy New Year!

Movies that Matter

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When the Taliban puts a bounty on Afghan director Hassan Fazili’s head, he is forced to flee the country with his wife and two young daughters. Capturing the family’s uncertain journey firsthand, Fazili documents their harrowing trek across numerous borders revealing the danger and uncertainty facing refugees seeking asylum juxtaposed with the unbreakable love shared amongst the family on the run.

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One of the pleasures of being associated with West Virginia Interfaith Refugee Ministry, and other Immigrants Rights groups in Charleston, is having the opportunity to present real-life stories to a wide audience, to educate people about issues facing displaced persons and the lengths one will go to gain civil liberties and the safety and well-being of one’s family.

WVIRM and ACLU West Virginia will co-sponsor the documentary Midnight Traveler on Mondays in December at the Floralee Hark Cohen cinema beneath Taylor Books on Capitol Street in Charleston. This presentation is part of the “Mondays that Matter” series of films which highlight social, environmental and justice issues.

On December 9, representatives of both sponsoring organizations will discuss current issues affecting displaced persons, what the Charleston community is doing to improve the ives of immigrants and asylum seekers, and how individuals can become involved.

Watch the trailer here. here

Buy tickets here. heremidnighttraveler

Suit Filed over Trump rule Allowing Local Officials to Reject Immigrants

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HIAS, a Jewish-American nonprofit group, Church World Service and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services filed suit on November 21, 2019 asking a federal district judge in Maryland to block enforcement of an Executive Order issued by U.S. President Donald Trump which gives local officials the right to reject resettlement of refugees in their state or local area. This rule can effectively separate families, adding to the hardships that refugees face in their home countries.

Read more about this lawsuit here.

 

 

WVIRM Welcomes Asylum Seeking Families from Africa to West Virginia!

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In December of 2018 WVIRM welcomed two asylum seeking families fleeing persecution in their home countries of Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo on the basis of their political opinions and social group membership. Another family, fleeing similar persecution, arrived in January of 2019.

WVIRM has aided these families, consisting of seven adults and seven children since then. One family moved on to be with relatives, but the other two remain. WVIRM’s volunteers have partnered with other charities in Charleston, West Virginia to provide housing, food, gently used clothing, school supplies and English as a Second Language Learning to our asylum seeking families. The children have done very well in school, and the adults are rapidly learning English. The families have participated in community activities and our hope is that they will someday gain asylum status and be on a path to self sufficiency and success in our beautiful country and the great State of West Virginia.

WVIRM launches WVIRM/IAWV Educational Scholarship Program

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In partnership with the Islamic Association of West Virginia, WVIRM is excited to announce the WVIRM/IAWV Educational Scholarship Program. The program will award grants to some of the newest West Virginian refugee, asylums, non-US citizen immigrants and Temporary Protected Status students in our beloved Mountain State. Criteria to be eligible to apply for an award, and information about the application process, as well as forms are available on our new webpage here WVIRM/IAWV EDUCATIONAL SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM

Gearing up for a great WVIRM Summer!

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Please follow us on Facebook and here at our WVIRM website for lots of opportunities this summer! We are planning to participate in Charleston WV’s Artwalk and other summer events so you can learn more about doing our part to aid the rising number of refugees worldwide! In other WVIRM news, we continue to work on our local and overseas refugee scholarship programs – stay in touch to learn more!