When people envision the Refugee Services program of Lutheran Services Carolinas, they often think of young families. But refugees of all ages need support, and Lutheran Services Carolinas has begun a program designed specifically to help refugees 55 and older.
Services to Older Refugees began in Columbia, South Carolina, last year, with the goal of helping older refugees navigate the citizenship process. It also helps clients integrate more fully into the wider community.
Levi Hall, a 2017 graduate of Columbia International University, is LSC’s first Services to Older Refugees program coordinator.
Levi’s first challenge was locating individuals who would be eligible for the program. He pored through data bases and went knocking on doors. Many of those he located had received resettlement support from LSC in years past.
To help his clients improve their English skills, Levi set up an English class at a Columbia church. He also recruited volunteers as mentors for the refugee clients. The most popular aspect of the program has been the community outings Levi organizes. In the spring, the clients and volunteers enjoyed an outing to Lake Murray in Columbia, learning how to play corn hole and bocce ball.
Two of Levi’s clients – Htee Poe, 79, and Ah Mu, 65 – have been brilliant success stories.
“They were some of the first clients I started working with, and they are such a joy to be around,” says Levi, who helped the women through the citizenship process. In August, both Htee and Ah proudly and gratefully became U.S. citizens. Htee has been in the country for seven years and Ah for five.
Services to Older Refugees has enlisted partners in the community who have helped support LSC’s older refugee clients. The South Carolina Arts Commission, for example, provided scholarships to five of Levi’s clients to participate in a beginning pottery class at no charge. Htee in particular enjoyed the class and the connections it provided – and also discovered a love for throwing clay.
“It has been incredible to work alongside these refugee elders to assist them in the process of citizenship and to get to know them.” Levi says.
To learn more about the Services to Older Refugees program, call Levi at 864-756-1331.