Alison Witt is an IAFR Canada team member, living in Hamilton, Ontario. Alison leads our Refugee Housing Initiatives and the Church Engagement team.
When I asked Danny, a volunteer with Open Homes Hamilton, why his family chose to invite refugees to live with them, he quickly responded, “because we want our kids to see us live out what we say we believe”. He is not alone. Many Open Homes volunteers are families with young children who believe Jesus is serious when he tells us to practice hospitality.
It is easy to see what a vital role children play in creating a community of belonging for newly arrived refugees. However, we only recently realized that while we offer initial orientation and ongoing training for adults volunteering with Open Homes, we don’t actually provide any preparation or education for the children.
That got us thinking.
Over the past 2 years IAFR Canada’s Church Engagement Team has been working hard at developing training materials for churches. One of the things that gives us great joy is seeing churches discover the unique ways that God might want them to engage with forcibly displaced people. I might be biased, but I think IAFR has created some excellent resources and tools to help churches on this journey. But when I looked at what is in our resource toolbox, I couldn’t find anything suitable for children! They are all created with adults in mind.
Another ‘aha’ moment!
Stories of refugees are woven throughout the whole Bible, yet they rarely get highlighted in Sunday School classrooms. Wouldn’t it be great for children to hear some of these stories and to learn how deeply God cares about the forcibly displaced? Wouldn’t it be great for them to learn about refugee issues in a way that they could understand? And wouldn’t it be amazing if children in churches all across Canada were motivated and eager to befriend children from refugee backgrounds arriving in our communities?
Our Church Engagement Team commissioned a few of us to work at developing some resources specifically for children. We shared these thoughts with Cathy Fairley, one of the best elementary school teachers we know. She was immediately on board with our vision to create a curriculum that churches could use to help children learn about refugees. She also convinced her husband Craig, a graphic designer, to help with the project. We were on a roll!
We are delighted to share with you our hot-off-the-press children’s curriculum: Growing Together: helping our children learn about refugees. This series of 4 lessons is designed to be used in the context of a church children’s program- but the lessons but could easily be adapted to use at home with your family, as part of a refugee learning workshop or at a Christian school or day camp. The first lesson was created as a single, ’stand alone’ learning experience that will provide children with a general introduction to basic refugee realities. For a more in-depth study we encourage you to complete the four part series.
Throughout the series we use the analogy of a potted plant to help convey the concepts of survival, welcome, and support. A key story from the Bible and a Scripture verse is also a core part of each lesson. Honestly, there are so many fascinating refugee stories in the Bible, it was hard to choose!
God brought along a gifted artist, Carolyn Amorin, who created colouring pages and activity sheets to accompany each lesson. You will also find photographs from IAFR partner ministries around the world and a personal message from someone who has had experience living as a refugee in each lesson. We want children to know that refugees are courageous and resilient people with much to offer.
It is our prayer and our deep desire that this resource will help children grow in their understanding and respect for people around the world who find themselves in need of refuge.
You can download the curriculum HERE. Click here to view a sample page.
We would be delighted to share it with you and would love your feedback.
Our vision is to help people survive and recover from forced displacement. We do this together with the church, both globally, and locally in Canada.