BENEFITING: INTERNATIONAL TEAMS
Their Story -
There are approximately 1.5 million refugees in western Europe. Their lives are largely characterised by uncertainty, fear, depression, and isolation. These refugees come from countries like Afghanistan, China, Iraq, Serbia, Pakistan, Iran, and the Russian Federation. They have endured situations we in the West cannot easily imagine. They have fled their homes, bringing almost nothing with them, and placed their lives in the hands of strangers to smuggle them into a country where their future will likely be uncertain for years to come.
Austria is one of the nations the desperate seek as they travel the refuge highway. Worldwide, it has been the 11th largest haven for refugees since 2009, despite it’s comparatively small size. 14,430 refugees applied for asylum in Austria in 2011, which was a 31% increase in applications from 2010. All together, there were 71,553 refugees and asylum seekers in Austria at the end of 2011. Many of these are children.
My Story -
My name is Katie! In high school I read a book about two women who left the US to work with orphans overseas. I decided I wanted to do something like that someday. It would take a lot of time to fully explain the series of complicated steps that took me from that book to today. For now I’ll just say that with each phase of education and practical field experience I’ve been privileged to have, I’ve seen my sense of purpose refined, and my commitment to bringing hope to suffering children strengthened. I have my BA in Psychology from Eastern University, and since graduation in 2006, I’ve worked with children in many settings, from The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to youth programs in London.
I found International Teams while searching refugee work in Europe. I fell in love with ITeams’ mission “to bring people together to help the oppressed.” In May 2012, I visited an International Teams group in Athens, Greece. While I was there, I got to see the ”refugee situation” in Europe firsthand. I got to spend time with refugee kids, to learn about their stories and cultures, and to see their heartbreaking needs – physical, emotional, spiritual.
ITeams Austria -
ITeams Austria, a peer partner organization with ITeams US, has been serving refugees in that country since 1987. There are three locations in Austria where ITeams is, or has recently been, active. One location was just handed over to the Austrian church, when ITeams workers became, happily, redundant. It’s ITeams’ policy to build the local community, not to just send workers. Those workers relocated, and are setting up camp now in Linz – a new frontier. The approach in each location is taylored to the refugee’s practical needs, as well as their spiritual needs. ITeams is a non-denominational Christian non-profit that seeks to follow Jesus’ example in caring for the whole person.
Coming Together -
There are a lot of needs in the world. Refugee kids in Austria aren’t the only people who need hope, who need love, who need healing…But as I thought and prayed about what to do with my forseeable future, and where to go to join the work that I believe God is already doing in the world, I realized that those refugee kids in Austria are the ones I’ve been equipped to help right now. I can’t fix everything, and I’m not responsible for everything, but God has given me this chance – these years, this heart, and these skills. He’s taken my experiences – big ones, and little ones – and paved the way for this good work. I am equipped for this, and I am responsible for it. I am committed to changing the situation for some refugee kids that matter to God, in a small European country far from my own home.
What I’m planning to do can’t be done alone. Many people are already part of this story. They’ve prayed for me. They’ve taught me or encouraged me, and they’ve pointed me in the right direction. They’ve loved me, or inspired me. I am so thankful for those people. As I take these next steps, I’m going to need more people around me. I’m going to need a team. Not just the team on the ground with me in Austria, but a team of people from all over the place that can pray for me, or that can offer their skills and perspectives to enrich what is offered to the refugees. I need people that are happy to invest in this work financially, and I need people who will consider getting on an airplane and coming to see what is going on for themselves. The world is a smaller place than it used to be, and we are connected. This is my opportunity, but it’s your opportunity too.
If there's anything else you'd like to know, just ask! You can shoot me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want to give directly? Go to https://wwws.iteams.org/us/give/. All you need to do to specify your donation is include my name (Katie Friend) when prompted. Thank you!