Column: Their need is your opportunity to serve

by Jan Lewis

The women arrive early, as the sun is creasing the horizon, hoping to beat the summer heat.

They bring with them baskets to hold the harvest and knives and hoes to tend their crops. The still of the morning is broken by the sounds of children laughing and playing between the rows as their mothers bend over the tender shoots, pulling weeds. Their brightly colored garments and elaborate headdresses create a beautiful contrast with the brilliant green of the fields.

It is a place that feels at peace as the women work with the rhythm of nature to feed their families.

If it wasn’t for the Kansas City skyline off in the distance, you might believe that you were standing in the African veldt or a tropical delta in Asia rather than on a small farm carved from the ruins of a federal housing project in northeast Kansas City, Kan. The women are refugees, having fled persecution in their homelands (primarily in Burma, Bhutan, Somalia and Sudan), and have been offered the chance of a new life here in the United States under the sponsorship of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Charities.

The farm at Juniper Gardens offers them the opportunity to become entrepreneurs. They are able to bring their agricultural skills to this new land and learn how to adapt their crops to not only feed their own families, but to market and sell to the American consumer. The women receive support from Catholic Charities staff and volunteers during a four-year program, with a goal for them to “graduate” from the training farm, acquire their own land and become self-sufficient local producers for Kansas City’s thriving farmers’ markets.

You can support this wonderful ministry and provide your family with fresh, naturally grown vegetables this season by joining our New Roots for Refugees CSA. For less than $20 per week you will receive an endless variety of produce for 18 weeks, beginning in June. Our farmers can also be found each week at local markets on both sides of the state line. Dates, times and locations of the markets are listed on our website at: www.catholiccharitiesks. org.

This year, Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas expects to welcome nearly 200 new refugees to the Kansas City area. They will arrive with nothing but the clothes on their backs and hope for the future. Their need is your opportunity to serve, a chance for you to become a friend and mentor.

If your family or parish would like to learn more about joining our mission to “Welcome the Stranger,” please contact Ernie Boeh- ner or Kasie Garlington at (913) 433-2100. Refugees bring seeds of hope; you can nurture that hope into a bountiful harvest.

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