DEARBORN — Orphans of War, a Michigan non-profit organization working with the Muslim Foster Care Association and Samaritas, is asking for motivated volunteers to collect and donate Eid gifts for Muslim refugee foster care children.
“We need people willing to write letters to local businesses,” said Maria Kabanni, founder of Orphans of War. “They could donate their time and collect gift donations.”
Kabanni said Orphans of War hasn’t previously asked the public for volunteers.
“This is a turning point for the organization,” she said. “I’m going to need to continue to bring more people in.”
Orphans of War can give community service credit for high school or college students who need to fulfill hours or would like to add to their resumes.
“A lot of what we do is also communication and awareness,” Kabanni said. “There is a dire need for these children to be placed in homes that preserve their culture, language and identity.
“I’m also looking for the community’s ideas,” she added. “There are a lot of people that may have experience and best practices that maybe we could adopt.”
Kayla Park, a refugee capacity builder at Samaritas in Lansing, said Orphans of War collected gift cards for refugee foster care youth transitioning into adulthood with Samaritas last December.
“Help of that nature is a huge support for our youth,” she said. “They find themselves transitioning to independence and they don’t get to take all of grandma’s old dishes with them when they move out of the house. They’re pretty much starting from scratch, even if they did have a loving foster family.”
Park said refugee foster children have a lot of unique challenges to face.
“A lot of them come here speaking very little if any English at all,” she said. “That is a big challenge. Especially because due to resources they’re enrolled in public schools. They have a huge learning curve since they’re trying to get an education in a language that they’re just learning.
“They have to learn how to navigate in a new culture,” she added. “They’ve experienced a lot of trauma and they have a lot of grief.”
Park said there are about 25.4 million refugees worldwide, more than half of whom are children. She said a large number of those children are unaccompanied refugee minors, around 98,000. Park added that accurate numbers are difficult to obtain because many children go unaccounted for.
“We’re looking at a vast number,” she said, “so we need as many homes as we can get.”
Kabanni said Orphans of War focuses on Islamic gifts like prayer rugs, beads and hijabs for refugee foster care children of all ages. Donations of Eid gifts for children must be new items. Donations of gently used items for refugee families are sometimes accepted.
To donate to or volunteer with Orphans of War, visit www.orphansofwarusa.org.
For more information about becoming a refugee foster-care parent, email firstname.lastname@example.org.