.- Catholic Charities of Dallas’ Refugee and Resettlement Services is expected to receive over 200 refugees this summer, mostly Burundians who have been living in Tanzania. Many Dallas-area Catholics have helped prepare for their arrival by assembling furniture for the refugees’ new homes.
The refugees fled Burundi in 1972 to escape widespread massacres largely perpetrated by the ethnic Tutsi-dominated government against the Hutu majority. As many as 250,000 people were killed, with about 150,000 fleeing to neighboring countries.
Most of these refugees have spent almost all their lives in exile, and some were even born in exile. According to Catholic Charities of Dallas, they were not able to integrate locally and are either unable or unwilling to return home.
Their land has long been confiscated and would be almost impossible to recover.
Dallas-area Catholics prepared for the refugees by assembling Ikea dining-room sets at St. Bernard of Clairvaux school.
The furniture was donated as part of Mission Possible, a 15-year-old organization which holds a weeklong program that sends more than 1,500 children to volunteer opportunities.
Mission Possible was formed to give children the opportunity to put into practice the social teachings of the Catholic faith, Diocese of Dallas vicar general Fr. Doug Deshotel told the Dallas Morning News.
Several volunteers described their work.
"It just really opens our eyes up to the problems going on – not just here, but all over the world," said Sara Elizabeth, a youth leader at St. Bernard who helped organize the gym-floor assembly line.
One student admitted that her mother made her volunteer, while student Hannah Reifsnyder told the Dallas Morning News she needed the service hours for her Communion.
“But I didn't know it would be this much fun,” she added.
Catholic Charities of Dallas normally acquires secondhand pieces of “varying quality” for the refugees.
Mike Auman, resettlement director for Catholic Charities, said these furniture sets were “sturdy.”
"I've had less-nice things than these as a young married person. It really gives people a feeling of home."