A Place to Call Home
by Karen Methot
By Karen Methot
Community – that basic human impulse to be part of a group, particularly one that understands your struggles and offers support and friendship. The LGBT Asylum Task Force of Hadwen Park Congregational Church (UCC) in Worcester understands the need for community, which is behind our dream to purchase a multi-family dwelling that will house half of the asylum seekers we assist at any given time.
Following our annual Gala on Oct. 27 at the DCU Center (theme: “A Place to Call Home”) the task force is close to realizing that dream. After the dust settled and all donations were counted, we learned earlier this week that we had in fact surpassed our goal and raised $151,032. Because these funds qualify for the financial match offered by a generous donor earlier this year, we now have $301,032 with which to purchase a 3-decker in Worcester. A Neighbors in Need grant received last December will provide welcome extra funds toward the purchase.
Why buy a house?
A house will provide a real HOME for the courageous asylum seekers who arrive, so often traumatized by the torture, imprisonment, destruction of their homes, and death threats they endured in their own countries, and the subsequent uncertain journeys that brought them to Worcester, Massachusetts.
A house will feel more secure, not subject to the whims of landlords; it will be ours.
A house will help the task force be better stewards of the donations and grants we receive by reducing the need for multiple apartments and the monthly rents we pay for them – a total savings of $40,000 a year.
And most importantly, a house will provide that sense of community with others who have the personal understanding of the struggles and fears all asylum seekers experience.
We are so grateful to those who attended the Gala, sponsored, bought ads, donated silent auction items or sent in donations, for helping us achieve this dream!
About 500 people attended the Gala, braving torrential rains, high winds, not to mention the possibility of missing a World Series game, to bid on 100 silent auction items, dine and dance, donate, and enjoy a program that featured the testimonials of three asylum seekers, video messages, and music by the All Nations Chorale – a talented group of seekers who sang “We are the World” and “The 23rd
Psalm”, in Luganda, a Ugandan language. Task Force Ministry Director, Hadwen Park Deacon, and Synod delegate Al Green was MC for the evening; Al is also an asylum seeker.
Linford Cunningham, the first asylum seeker to arrive at Hadwen Park Church’s door 10 years ago, was honored along with immigration Atty. Lisa Weinberg, who contacted church Pastor Judy Hanlon and brought Linford to us all those years ago. He is now a U.S. citizen.
The involvement by Rep. Joe Kennedy, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Rep. Jim McGovern, Worcester Mayor Joe Petty, City Manager Ed Augustus and Conference Minister Don Remick, all helped to fire the donations and support.
“The task force is known around the world by asylum seekers who have the church's address in their hand when they leave their country”, said Pastor Judy Hanlon. “Now, it is becoming known in the community to which those fleeing people come.”
Since 2008, the LGBT Asylum Task Force, a ministry of Hadwen Park Congregational Church, UCC, has provided housing, clothing, food, a cell phone, and a small monthly stipend to LGBT people seeking asylum from countries where it is illegal or unsafe to be gay and ‘out’. The task force assures that people get medical help as well as much-needed spiritual support; some become members of our church. Once the asylum seekers - who are here legally - receive their work permit and Social Security number, and secure a job, they are on their own to they await their asylum hearing. This process takes about a year. There is always a waiting list as violence against LGBT persons continues to grow worldwide, necessitating a life-or-death choice to flee to a safer place.
All are welcome to attend the free LGBT Asylum Community Dinner next Monday, Nov. 12, at 6 PM at Hadwen Park Congregational Church, Worcester, to meet asylum seekers, hear stories, have dinner, and learn about ways to support this ministry. Learn more: lgbtasylum.org
Karen Methot is a member of the LGBT Asylum Task Force