Local church helps Syrian refugee family settle in Savannah - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Local church helps Syrian refugee family settle in Savannah

(Source: WTOC) (Source: WTOC)

The number of refugees settling here in the United States, from Syria, has more than doubled in a year.

According to the U.S. State Department, nearly 5,700 Syrians are now seeking a better life across 37 states - including Georgia and South Carolina.

According to the Refugee Processing Center, 17 refugees have settled in Savannah the last two months. That's about eight percent of the total population statewide.

Since June 2015, 211 refugees have settled in Georgia - mostly in the Atlanta, Marietta and Stone Mountain area. In May, Savannah joined the list of cities that are helping to accommodate these families.

The Lutheran Services of Georgia has been working directly with the state department to make sure these families have all the tools and resources they need in their community. Just two weeks ago, a family was paired up with the First Presbyterian Church.

WTOC spoke to the pastor about how they have been helping this family make this transition.

"They had been staying in a refugee camp for a long time. In fact their two year old - they have six children, ages two through 15 - the youngest was born in the refugee camp,” said Rev. Stephen Williams, First Presbyterian Church. "We're grateful that we've been given this opportunity to help somebody; to give them a hand."

Rev. Stephen Williams says they were honored to welcome one of Savannah's first Syrian families relocating to the area. For the next couple of months, members of the congregation will help this family feel welcome.

"They have a nice apartment that we've set up with furniture, and equipped the pantry with food,” said Rev. Williams.

The family is mainly under the care of the Lutheran Services of Georgia, a resettlement agency that's approved by the U.S. State Department. Over the next 90 days, the agency will help this family learn the language, laws, find them jobs, and make sure their children get enrolled in school.

However, a family of eight needs more than these basic tools and necessities. They need this church community to make them feel at home.

"In fact, we've linked them up with the local mosque and are taking them to services,” said Rev. Williams.

In the two weeks they've been here, Williams says it's evident that their quality of life has improved dramatically after living in a refugee camp in the Middle East, for almost two years.

"Right now, they are getting used to being in an apartment where each person has their own bed,” said Rev. Williams.

They hardly speak English, but he says their gratitude is evident.

"We are communicating mostly by smiles,” the reverend said.

Just to be clear, these refugees go through an extensive vetting process before they even arrive here in the U.S.

Lutheran Services of Georgia says they are expecting three more Syrian families to relocate to the Savannah in the next month. 

For facts, myths, and more information on Syrian refugees, click here and here

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