Sister Patricia Vanden Bergh, CSJ lives in Green Bay, Wisconsin. She currently spends her time volunteering in the community. This is after returning from 25 years of ministry in Peru. Sister Patrica has visited the border five times.
by Patricia Vanden Bergh, CSJ
Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin has been receiving Afghan immigrants for the past several months and is still preparing to settle more. These families arrive here only with the clothes they received at the army camps. The most immediate problem Catholic Charities must solve upon their arrival is to find low-income housing, which is no easy task in our area at this time.
Since resettling is such a huge undertaking, Catholic Charities asked for volunteers to collect items to set up the households. With the consent of my parish pastor, I put a listing in our bulletin of items needed such as; sheets, blankets, pillows, kitchen utensils, dishes, pots, pans, bathroom items, etc. The parish responded generously and continues to donate.
I was also able to gather volunteers to sort donated items (just as we did at the border in El Paso) and to prepare boxes with sufficient items for each family. We then deliver these items to homes where Afghans are eagerly awaiting the opportunity to get settled in. Sometimes there is a need to clean the house if the property was been purchased as-is. Our work does not come to an end once our Afghan brothers and sisters are in a home. Since they do not have mobility and do not know their way around, we take them to the food pantry, to the clinic, to job interviews, etc.
In the winter, I took a young couple with their little three-year-old named Kawsar to the food pantry. On entering, Santa greeted us and invited little Kawsar to choose a gift from under the tree. Without hesitation, she chose a pink lunch box. (As JoAnn Geary would say, “Pink is the favorite color of little girls all over the world!”) Kawsar then went on to charm all of the volunteers at the food pantry saying to each one the only words she knows in English: “I love you.”
In line with our commitment to defend the rights of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees, our new blog series “Our Border Brothers and Sisters,” we present the stories that our sisters and associates who have had border experiences would like to share. We are grateful to them for their generosity. It is our hope that these stories will open us to seeing and understanding our brothers and sisters in greater depth because, as Colum McCann once said: “You can’t hate someone when you know their story.”