Recently, Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic was honored at Exodus Refugee Immigration’s Celebrate the Life Ahead gala. We were given the award for Community Partner of the Year. Elizabeth Standiford, Director of Development and Communication at Exodus, says, “[The Clinic] is a true partner in upholding human rights and you have made such a difference for refugees.” As part of our partnership with Exodus, every month, the Clinic teaches refugees new to Indianapolis about taxes. The Clinic also assists refugees with legal issues relating to taxes, guardianship, and fair housing. Elizabeth says, “Through the Immigrant Justice Program, the Clinic has assisted hundreds, if not thousands, of refugee clients—representing asylum seekers that become our future clients, helping family members reunite with loved ones left behind, and preparing applications for permanent residence and citizenship.” Accepting the award on behalf of the Clinic was Immigrant Justice Program Staff Attorney Rachel Van Tyle.
Keynote speaker at the event was New York Times best-selling writer and vlogger, John Green. During the event, John shared two videos from his time at the Azraq refugee camp in northern Jordan, a trip made possible through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Especially poignant is the story of two sisters, Aida and Majeeda. In one video, John says, “Aida has never been to school. She was only five when the war began … When I asked Aida what message she wanted to share with American children her age, our interpreter told me she said, ‘We just want to go to school. We just want to have a life.’”
The gala itself constitutes Exodus’ biggest fundraiser of the year, while also celebrating the courage and strength of refugees. “This year's event was extra special because we were also celebrating Exodus’ 35th anniversary of welcoming refugees to Indiana,” Elizabeth says. “We’ve grown so much since our founding in 1981 to assist Cuban refugees who had arrived as part of the Mariel boatlift. Since that time, we’ve welcomed thousands of individuals representing more than 30 countries.”
To meet this growing number, Exodus is also expanding in the coming year by moving to a larger location at 2457 E. Washington Street. “With record numbers of refugee arrivals the last few years, we are bursting at the seams in our current office space,” Elizabeth says. “The new location will provide additional classrooms, extra office space, a separate kitchen and child watch space for clients, windows, and more! Our staff is very excited.”
In the second video John shared at the gala, he highlights a family he met in Jordan who was then resettled in Rockford, Illinois. “To be a refugee is to be politicized,” John says. “Too often we’re told that because of their ethnicity or religion, refugees are threats, that our civilization is fundamentally incompatible with their civilization.” But when John speaks to one of the nephews of the family and asks him what he likes most about living in the U.S., John tells us the young man is most grateful for the law. “The law—which had not existed in Syria and which had prevented him from working in Jordan—was what he liked most about the United States,” John says. “His family did not come here to change the law; they came to be protected by it.”