TeamMates Matches Welcome Refugees

TeamMates and Lutheran Family Services Help Welcome Resettled Families

As the city of Lincoln continues to gain incoming Afghan refugees, TeamMates has partnered with Lutheran Family Services to help welcome them. TeamMates mentors and mentees decorated over 200 canvas toiletry bags to not only provide personal care items, but to also share messages of welcoming, encouragement, and resilience. 

Mo Shakir, a volunteer with the Lutheran Family Services Foundation Board, was happy to be present when TeamMates staff delivered the donation of adorned bags and toiletries. As a former recipient of Lutheran Family Services’ support, Mo understands the impact of the collaborative community service project firsthand. 

Mo and his family left their home in Kurdistan, living in Iran, Afghanistan, and in Pakistan before receiving sponsorship to come to the United States in 1998. 

“When you’ve left a war-torn country and you move to an unfamiliar country, the last thing you want to worry about is ‘How am I going to get toiletries? Where am I going to get this; where am I going to get that?” said Mo. “You have to start learning the language, the culture. The last thing on your mind would be the little things.”

Beyond the practicality, Mo describes how the artwork and messages drawn on the bags send a message that speaks volumes. “I’m just blown away by all the small details,” he says while looking through the boxes of bags. ‘You are brave, Glad you’re here,’ they read in colorful lettering. Some students included messages in their first languages as well.

“Something as simple as ‘welcome,’ this is what someone wants to hear when they first move to a completely different country. Simple messages like that give them hope.” 

Each month, TeamMates Mentoring offers their matches kits to complete a community service project, which provides a useful item or kind gesture to an organization or agency that serves others. “It was great to see the range of ages of the youth who participated in this project and their kindness,” said Jim Bennett, Coordinator of Lincoln TeamMates. “We know our mentors are kind too, by their volunteering through TeamMates, but a lot of them went above and beyond to donate the toiletries to fill their bags as well.”

“TeamMates is all about developing hope, so we’re glad we were able to help Lutheran Family Services spread hope in their array of services as well,” said Bennett.

“‘We’ve got your back,’ that’s what you guys are showing them,” said Mo. “I get goosebumps just thinking about it. I could look through these bags all day.”

Mo Shakir, Lutheran Family Services Foundation board representative, Stacey Blizek and Meredith Cain with TeamMates, and Lutheran Family Services Assistant VP of Development Joel Stoltenow, look through the bags decorated by TeamMates youth and their mentors.

To partner with TeamMates for a community service project, or to learn more about mentoring, please visit LincolnTeamMates.org or call 402-436-1990.