NBARC was started in 2016, through a desire to help asylum seekers, a group who are legally allowed to be in this country, but are offered little assistance from any level of government. These “asylees” come to Massachusetts to escape terror in their home countries, often with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Asylees are permitted to be in this country, but are not allowed to work, often for months and, for some, years. This creates a situation where living on the streets or homelessness is the only recourse, unless organized assistance is given.
Our primary goal was to help settle asylees in the Boston area and assist them in creating a self-supporting life. In doing this work as a coalition, we also hoped to foster connections amongst diverse groups of volunteers who might not otherwise have encountered each other, thereby creating increased sense of community.
Members of five congregations from different faith groups (Temple Reyim in Newton, First Baptist Church in Newton, Temple Beth Zion in Brookline, Grace Episcopal Church in Newton and the Newton Centre Minyan) came together to create a “cluster,” and started out by working with Refugee Immigration Ministries (RIM) based in Malden, Massachusetts to assist asylum seekers in Massachusetts. The First Unitarian Universalist Society in Newton (FUUSN) joined the group shortly after.
In 2018, we transitioned to become an independent coalition, the Newton-Brookline Asylum Resettlement Coalition, (NBARC). Entirely volunteer-run, we have helped individual and family group asylum seekers from Iraq, Cameroon, Uganda, Ethiopia, Syria, Haiti, Nigeria, Colombia and other conflict-torn regions to resettle in the greater Boston area. Our work focused on giving the asylees a secure foothold in this country, help them get shelter, work permits and employment, and feel welcome and safe.
Partnering with local social service agencies, health institutions and community organizations, we provide and/or help people find housing, furnishings, English language classes, job training, child care, public schooling, access to health care, transportation and connections to a variety of community resources.
The asylum seekers we have helped settle come from all walks of life. Some were professionals in their home countries (teachers, engineers, computer scientists), some were tradespeople. Some came from refugee camps; all of them have escaped harrowing circumstances and have experienced trauma. Their resilience inspires us. Their path to independence and their success at becoming contributing members of our society is a reminder of what the American experience has been and continues to be.
In 2021, NBARC is partnering with the Jewish Community Relations Council and Catholic Charities of Boston to help resettle Afghan families, who will be coming in significant numbers to Massachusetts. We look forward to using our experience and our eager volunteers to help welcome and resettle these new arrivals to the Boston area.