Friday, April 22, 2011

A Special Kind of Rootless: Caritas Habimana, Part 2

Over a year ago, Carie realized she was so busy in her volunteer service to refugees in Columbia, Missouri, it interfered with her job. So she quit her job.

In a sense, Carie untied the tether that held her balloon to the ground, and began to float free. 

Carie knew she would be OK. And she has been. Money to pay the bills and put food on the table somehow comes to her when she needs it.


Ditto for the means and methods to serve the refugees in Columbia, Missouri. The people who have come into Carie's orbit, who are heavenly bodies themselves, accomplish the most creative feats:

Sew You Know, a place hosted by Community United Methodist Church, where refugees learn how to sew, speak English, build relationships, and sell their product to another out-of-the-box-thinking supporter --> the Columbia Housing Authority.

Safi Sana, a house cleaning and painting business started by Jen Wheeler, employing refugees who do not speak English yet, and who need work to support themselves and their families.

Agape Fellowship Church, through the leadership of refugee and pastor, Aaron Vurugwa, and the support of four mid-Missouri Presbyterian churches. Carie, a founding member of this church, translates the Kinyarwanda-language services into English or any of the other seven languages she speaks, when non-Kinyarwanda speakers join the congregation's services.


Carie called a local employer one day and asked if he would be willing to hire refugees who desperately needed work to be self-sufficient. He runs a laundry business. Carie told him, "They don't speak English yet." He asked, "No English?" She said, "None." And he took the risk and hired them. As with any other employee, sometimes an individual doesn't work out, and s(he) gets fired. And then Carie mentors the refugee on improving his or her workplace skills.

There are many stories about Carie and the people around her, and how they make cool things happen.

Here's another really cool thing. Carie and I got together shortly before I left for Ethiopia. She told me that a friend of hers, a trauma counselor also working with refugees, had the opportunity to go to Rwanda in July 2011. The friend asked Carie if she could go, too. Carie said yes. No money to do so, mind you. Just the faith that it would happen somehow. And I totally believed her because that's just how it is with Carie. 

So I get back from Ethiopia, and we meet for a catch-up. Rwanda in July? Yes. It's the most amazing story: Recently, Carie met a young woman with whom she'd do some refugee work. Carie told the woman about her intent to go to Rwanda, including that she didn't know how she'd pay for it, but knew it would happen anyway.

That night, the young woman told her parents about Carie. The next day, she called Carie. Her parents, without having ever met Carie, but so inspired by their daughter's story, decided to buy Carie's plane tickets!

When Carie goes to Rwanda this July, it will be the first time she's returned since she fled 17 years ago.

Carie is a special kind of rootless.

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