About First Friends
“We have formed wonderful friendships.”
In June of 2016, Syrian Christians for Peace asked First Presbyterian Evanston to host newly arrived refugees for an Iftar dinner, the meal at sunset which ends Muslims’ Ramadan fast. Two weeks later there were 150 refugees in the church gym for dinner.
The church decided to invite them back for Thanksgiving and, on the Saturday before Thanksgiving 2016, the church collaborated with its Souper Saturday cooks to host 100 people for dinner. Church families hosted tables and sat with people, getting to know them. The guests from that evening were asked if they would like to be paired up with friends from the church, and all of them did. The 40 volunteers that participated formed the group First Friends.
First Friends focuses their efforts in three areas: 1) A large group of volunteers for one-off events/gatherings; 2) A team focused on resettling new families when they arrive, primarily during an intensive three to four months; and 3) The largest group which includes individuals and families who are divided into teams that get together with refugee families on an ongoing basis – with a minimum commitment of four visits a year.
These volunteers attended training with World Relief, which works with the local churches to support “the sick, the widowed, the orphaned, the alienated, the displaced, the devastated, the marginalized and the disenfranchised.”
To-date First Friends has supported 11 Syrian and Iraqi families, including two new ones that were brought to us by one of the existing families. First Friends focuses on “helping these new friends adapt to living in the U.S. and the Chicago area, and developing strong friendships so they don’t feel isolated.” Volunteers help families as they navigate schools, medical needs, getting driver’s licenses and state IDs., rent issues, job related issues, and English as a Second Language.