The Washington Times Daily
Helping refugees ‘for God’ Virginia woman aids resettlement of families
FREDERICKSBURG, Va. — When Munira Marlowe isn’t working, she’s on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Miss Marlowe coordinates Fredericksburg’s refugee resettlement program and has a caseload of 26 families — 104 persons — from around the world.
When she’s not shuttling refugees to and from doctors’ appointments or setting up apartments for new arrivals, the 44-year-old single mother is raising three sons.
Miss Marlow says she gets through the long days and difficult work because it’s God’s will.
“I’m doing this for God,” Miss Marlow told a reporter late last year. “As long as God gives me the strength, I’ll push on. I see a light at end of the tunnel.”
Since then, that light has gotten brighter.
“Everywhere I go, people are opening their doors and saying, ‘What else can we do?’ “ Miss Marlowe said recently. “That’s why I have the energy.”
Miss Marlowe works for the Fredericksburg Refugee Service Center, a satellite office of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington’s Office of Resettlement. A variety of Fredericksburg-area churches, nonprofit organizations and individuals have contacted the center to offer financial support or to volunteer. Fredericksburg Baptist Church has been one of the most active supporters.
In November, church staff helped Miss Marlowe move the program from its Spotsylvania County office to a new location in the city’s Bragg Hill neighborhood.
The church also
refugees to Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. For Christmas, the church celebrated the birth of Christ and of the refugees, who come from several faith backgrounds, said the Rev. Jeanne Anderson, the church’s minister with adults and missions.
Church members donated a birthday cake, five pounds of goat meat and 20 pounds of rice, yams and other food to each refugee family, Miss Anderson said.
Volunteers got to know many refugees through the church’s English as a Second Language (ESL) classes at the Bragg Hill Family Life Center.
“It was very evident that the world is coming to Fredericksburg,” Miss Anderson said. “We couldn’t miss the op-
portunity to get to know people from around the world in ways that many of our members wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do: to be able to sit at table, have conversations with someone from Africa, Pakistan, Iran.”
This month, the Baptist church will host ESL classes at its facility and provide free transportation to and from the Bragg Hill area.
Fredericksburg Baptist plans to hold topical English classes by next month to discuss doctor visits, driver’s licenses and other issues that will help refugees adapt to American life.
Miss Marlowe said she is confident that other activities will fall into place, just as things have since she took the position a year ago.
Area organizations have made donations ranging from toys and bicycles to clothing and furniture. The donations are helpful for setting up homes for the refugees before their arrival, especially since many of the families are large.
Miss Marlowe is expecting a family of 11 and a family of 12 to arrive within the next month.
As the program and its caseload grow, so do the needs: volunteers, cars, financial contributions. Miss Marlowe said she’s confident that as the needs grow, so too does the community’s generosity.