By Elsie Walker
Last fall, a family from overseas arrived at Newark Airport. That family consisted of a father, mother, a 19 year old son, an 8 year old daughter and a 6 year old son. The family had had another son, but he had been killed when a bomb hit near their home in Aleppo, Syria.
Now, these refugees had come to the United States to start a new life. To help them make the transition to that life was the Refugee Assistance Morris Partners (RAMP).
Gerry Gannon, who lives with his wife, Mary, in Florham Park, is coordinator of RAMP. Gannon explained how it got started:
“About a year and a half ago, members of the Voice of the Faithful, a group of Catholics concerned about the condition of the Church, met and shared their concern regarding the horrendous suffering of the Muslim refugees that was taking place in the Middle East. A number of us had been involved in the refugee situation that took place following the Vietnam War, and wanted to do the same for the newest refugees.”
Gannon shared that they got the word out to a variety of Morris County organizations, temples, and mosques about a meeting to discuss about helping to resettle refugees in Morris County.
“Although we did not know who, or how many people would come to the meeting, we were amazed that more than 70 people showed up to find out what could be done,” said Gannon.
At later meetings, they organized into committees to prepare for what the refugees would need to support them settling in Morris County: Housing, employment, education, health and social services, welcoming and orientation, finances (including household budgeting etc, ) furniture and clothing collection, as well as lists of drivers and translators.
“[Then] we arranged with the Church World Service (CWS), a well known national organization, to facilitate the sponsorship of a refugee family,” said Gannon. “The role of CWS was to arrange for the transportation of the families to America and assign the families to RAMP.”
RAMP is a non-profit interfaith effort. There are 200 members in RAMP including volunteers, service providers, donors and people just interested in helping in any way they can. Member organizations which are part of RAMP include Brookside Community Church/United Church of Christ, Morristown; Church of Latter Day Saints, Morristown; Church of the Messiah (Episcopal), Chester; Grace Episcopal Church, Madison; the Islamic Center of Basking Ridge; the Islamic Center of Morris County; Morristown Unitarian Fellowship; St. Matthew the Apostle Parish, Randolph; St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Morris Plains; St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Morristown; St. Vincent Martyr Church, Madison; Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth, Convent Station; Sophia Inclusive Catholic Community, Sparta; The Presbyterian Church in Morristown; and Voice of the Faithful New Jersey. While it has no office, RAMP meetings are regularly held at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Morristown.
After the first family arrived, another from Kabul, Afghanistan came in March 2017, a young couple with a two-year old boy. While in Afghanistan, the father was injured by shrapnel when a suicide bomber exploded a car not far from where he was standing. Now, just this past month, the family celebrated the birth of a daughter. She represents the first American citizen in their family.
Gannon noted the great satisfaction RAMP members feel in helping these refugees: “If you were to ask any member of RAMP who has been involved in assisting members of a family, they will tell you that they have received rewards, enormous emotional satisfaction and gratefulness for their experience of knowing and working with these families.”
For more information about RAMP, visit its site at: http://www.rampnj.org/.