When a former client recently showed up at the reception desk of Catholic Charities of Louisville, he didn’t know where else to turn. The Cuban immigrant had briefly traveled to his country of origin following the death of his mother. Upon returning to Louisville a month later, he had lost his job, his apartment, his livelihood. He slept on the street for one night and was scared and alone. That’s when he sought help at our doorstep.
Meeting the basic needs of those who are vulnerable is core to our mission — a mission that applies to all Catholic Charities programming, including Migration and Refugee Services (MRS), where I’ve worked to welcome and serve clients since 2004. Each and every day, dedicated MRS staff provide clients with the necessary support to ensure successful resettlement and self-sufficiency. We “welcome the stranger,” guided by the principle that all individuals deserve the care necessary to alleviate their suffering.
Much of the work we do entails providing clients with life’s essentials: housing, food, clothing and health care. But helping immigrants and refugees truly integrate into their new homes also is key to successful resettlement, which is why we provide services such as English classes, assistance with school enrollment, help with job placement, community orientations, and more.
All of these services are crucial, but there’s an intangible element to our work that is equally as important: compassion. When we interact with clients, we do so with the understanding that they are human beings who deserve dignity and respect. Not only do we help clients with the logistics of resettlement, we strive to connect on a personal level. And the value of this connection cannot be overstated.
It was this compassionate connection that compelled the client from Cuba to reach out to Catholic Charities when he was in need. The man recalled meeting me during a past Refugee and Immigrant Day at the Capitol rally, and he knew I spoke Spanish. When he arrived at our reception desk, he asked for me by name. I listened, assured him we could help — and then our team sprang into action.
We immediately found temporary housing, and soon after lined up a job interview and the necessary mental health counseling he needed to get through a difficult time. Now he’s employed, searching for permanent housing and making connections in the community. He’s thriving, which might not be the case had we not established a relationship of kindness and trust at the outset.
The Golden Rule says “Do to others what you would have them do to you.” It’s a principle that has spanned many centuries, cultures and faiths. It is rooted in the belief that empathy and compassion breed unity. At Catholic Charities, we treat our clients as we wish to be treated — and that makes all the difference in making them feel welcome.
Visit www.cclou.org to learn more about the work of Migration and Refugee Services. You can also visit www.begolden.cclou.org to learn about Catholic Charities’ participation in #BeGolden, a movement to urge compassion for all.
Colin Triplett is director of Migration and Refugee Services at Catholic Charities of Louisville.