When refugees resettle in the U.S., they must acquire a huge range of skills — everything from a new language to discerning the difference between important mail and junk mail. While resettlement agencies offer some assistance, what a refugee really needs is a friend willing to walk with the newcomer through daily life.
Bridges Language Academy in West Palm Beach, Florida, pairs refugees with volunteers who not only help them learn English but also assist them in adjusting to their new lives — all in Jesus’ name.
While resettlement agencies offer some assistance, what a refugee really needs is a friend willing to walk with the newcomer through daily life.
David Chavez started Bridges Language Academy in 2013 to offer one-on-one English training to immigrants and refugees who simply wanted to be able to hold a conversation in English. However, in 2015, as an unprecedented number of refugees began arriving in south Florida, Bridges morphed into a comprehensive mentoring program for refugees resettling in West Palm Beach.
Bridges volunteers assist refugees by collecting new arrivals from the airport, finding housing and work for them, helping to register children for school, teaching English, and assisting with everyday tasks like sorting the mail.
Helping Refugees in Jesus’ Name
Before Bridges, Chavez said the only help most refugees received was from the overburdened refugee-resettlement agency. With so many families in need, Bridges stepped into refugees’ lives.
“We are very open with telling them why we help them and communicating that Jesus loves us so much that this is how we respond to [Jesus’ love],” said Chavez. “We are very open with our message and why we do what we do.”
Bridges has no paid employees, and funding and donations must come from local churches. Chavez has received plenty of pushback from churches that do not support Bridges working with refugees from the Middle East. But Chavez has also received tremendous support from his congregation, Truth Point Church (PCA), and MNA’s Refugee and Immigrant Ministry.
Nathalie Caycedo is a Bridges volunteer who serves refugee families after work and on weekends. Each week, she visits her families and helps them with whatever needs they might have. She walks the children through homework assignments, assists adults with filling out forms, and tutors the families.
The time she has invested in her refugee families means she offers them more than assistance — she offers them friendship.
“Being with them is how we show them love, and they really need that,” she said.
When refugees ask her the reason for her love and concern, Caycedo does not shy away from the opportunity to tell them about the God who loves them.
As Chavez and the volunteers at Bridges minister to the refugees’ needs, they are not simply bridging physical gaps. They pray the power of the Holy Spirit will close the spiritual gaps and lead refugees to Christ.
To learn more about Bridges, please call 561-331-4938.