Stories of Welcome

Beyond 90 days: How Mission Maranatha and newcomer Ibrahim developed their relationship

It was a natural connection, shared Dr. Simone Bamba, pastor of Mission Maranatha church in Boston, upon meeting refugee Ibrahim. “It’s almost like we knew each other forever.”

Through the Welcome Corps, the Mission Maranatha private sponsor group welcomed Somalian refugee Ibrahim to Boston in July and committed to getting him settled during his first 90 days in the U.S. They helped to connect him with a local mosque, navigate the grocery store and public transportation, search for a job, find housing, and gain a sense of independence in a new country. And they haven’t done it alone—Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Service (IRIS) worked closely with them as their Private Sponsor Organization.

“[IRIS] was there for us to guide us, to encourage us, and to support us with any question that we had,” Simone said.

Ann O’Brien, director of sponsorship at IRIS, described their role as “giving the private sponsor group community members a solid sense and belief in themselves that they can do this work… [It’s] instilling in them the confidence that they need to make sure that the newcomers know that support is going to be there, even if they can’t see it.”

Even though the Welcome Corps program requires a 90-day commitment to a refugee, Simone, Ibrahim, and Ann foresee a much longer and richer relationship. “He is already part of our family,” Simone said. “He calls me Mama, he calls my husband uncle, and he considers my son his younger brother.”

“The people who brought me here, who sacrificed their time for me, who spent their money on me, who have been helping me—they are not people whom I can forget. In the future it may happen that I work with them, I become part of the [Welcome Corps sponsorship] program they are continuing,” Ibrahim shared, hoping to one day become a sponsor.

Sponsor groups like Mission Maranatha are helping refugees and newcomers create a new sense of home, Ann said. “Creating a home is as much about the people and the feeling and the values that you’re around as it is about any type of housing or faith community or the smell of certain foods. It’s about choosing a place that has your best interests and will help you become the best version of you.”