Support Refugee Resettlement Efforts in the Pioneer Valley

In 2017 there were 68.5 million people that were forcibly displaced and since then that number has only been growing, according to the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR). Of that number of people, 25.4 million are refugees and about half are under the age of 18. Shockingly only 102,800 refugees have been resettled, and developing nations are hosting more than 85 percent of refugees even as they possess a much smaller fraction of the world’s wealth according to a UNHCR report.

In fact, the U.S. has actually restricted the number of refugees that it resettles despite the need for resettlement being greater than ever. The Pew Research Center reports that over the course of 2017, the U.S. resettled a mere 33,000 refugees, down from 97,000 in 2016. Yet the need to resettle innocent civilians remains paramount. With armed conflict flaming across the globe from Syria and Sudan to El Salvador and Myanmar and beyond, one innocent bystander is being displaced every two seconds, according the UNHCR. It is crucial that we act to assist and support refugees who will be assimilating and working in our community.

Currently, communities in Amherst and Northampton are doing just that. In the U.S., refugees are resettled by designated agencies, one of which is Catholic Charities. Through the hard work of a coordinated team primarily consisting of volunteers, including UMass students, Catholic Charities is supporting more than 50 refugees in the Pioneer Valley area. Catholic Charities supports refugees in their first year living in the United States by providing them with support for housing and helping them find the jobs they need to jump start their new lives. A dedicated team of volunteers also help resettled refugees in other ways like cultural assimilation, teaching English language classes, job skills, resume building, mock interviews, transportation, child care, and much more.

Catholic Charities’ work in the Pioneer Valley continues to need support from the Pioneer Valley and surrounding areas. You can assist this work by making a charitable, tax deductible donation to the organization’s work that will be put towards housing costs and other important social services that are necessary to get these families back on their feet. You can also support resettlement in the area by working with Catholic Charities to provide permanent housing for refugees, by employing refugees, and by volunteering your time with Catholic Charities or by donating household items to help set up new homes for refugees coming home.

Learn more about how to get involved and be sure to follow local resettlement efforts on Instagram @refugeeresettlementproject and Facebook at Welcome Home Refugee Resettlement Program.

—Hannah Parrott, UMass Amherst Student and Catholic Charities Intern

Actually, We’re Old, and We’re Still Not Conservative

In response to “Just Wait, You’ll All Be Conservatives Soon,” published in the Back Talk section of the Valley Advocate on May 9-15.

I can’t help but wonder to whom the letter writer of “Just wait, you’ll all be conservatives soon” is referring as becoming, “the most conservative folks imaginable … as maturity sets in.” Bypassing the unnecessary name-calling and insults, I wonder if he is familiar with Frances Crowe (100 years old!), Wally and Juanita Nelson, Pete Seeger, Charlie King, the Berrigans, Bernie Sanders, and countless more revered elders amongst us who never lost their ideals and commitment to fighting for peace and justice, becoming even more committed as they matured. While I am sure there are some whose views may have changed over the years for any number of reasons, that in no way dismisses the legions of others who continue to stand strong for ideals such as Freedom for All, Civil Rights, Voting Rights, and all rights covered by Equality Under the Law, No Taxation Without Representation, Free Speech, a Free Press — all of which are being contested by the current administration. Need I go on? I am proud to consider myself amongst them.

—Gary Powsner, Sunderland

The Back Talk comment by Bill Santy of Chicopee is a pitiable example of how the infirmities of age can cause people to lose sight of who and what they once were. At 83, I am (I believe) in full command of my intellectual powers. Therefore, unlike Santy, I am as opposed as I was in my 20s to the inhumane fascistic policies of the American political elite. Unlike Santy, I have neither forgotten nor abandoned the values I formed early in life about fairness, progress, human rights, decency, and love. These values I learned from Charles and Madelene Roberts, my parents; from Doris Erdman, my Quaker 5th grade teacher; from Ralph Wickel, my 9th grade Swedenborgan Civics teacher; from Jim Pain, my college professor; from Cratis Williams and Orlan Sawey, my graduate school professors; from my wife, the brilliant attorney, Diane Esser; from living in a country where justice can be denied unless one is a socially and financially privileged white male. I weep for Mr. Santy, and creatures like him, whose values held no value for them. Pity his descent from reason. Pity mine, should I ever cease to express my disdain for, and horror over a monstrous figure like Donald Trump.

—Wilson Roberts, Greenfield