“A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war or violence... . Most likely, they cannot return home or are afraid to do so.” Reviewing that definition of refugee from the United Nations’ High Commission on Refugees is part of the work for a self-created GEMS badge being used at Ebenezer Christian Reformed Church in Jarvis, Ont.
GEMS (Girls Everywhere Meeting the Saviour) are clubs for girls in first through eighth grades in churches throughout North America and around the world. At Ebenezer CRC, GEMS counselor Rebecca Shortt is also the chair of Refugees for Hope, a group of six local churches (including four other CRCs) helping to resettle refugees through Canada’s Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program. Shortt found a connection between refugees and GEMS and created the refugee badge.
Ebenezer CRC has a GEMS club of about 40 girls. In the past three years, 16 girls have completed the refugee badge.
Shortt noticed that by the time GEMS were in grades 6 and 7, they had already completed many of the badges offered in the curriculum, limiting the opportunity to work on badges as a group. The refugee badge was created to be used by this age group and to provide an opportunity to discuss heavier content in a safe environment.
The badge work spans over two nights of club meetings. The first night, the girls review the badge’s memory verse (Proverbs 31:8-9), the definition of a refugee, statistics, and refugees in the Bible. They then read and discuss stories from the book Children of War: Voices of Iraqi Refugees by Deborah Ellis. They conclude their session with brainstorming how to apply what they learned.
The second night, the girls complete their badge by participating in their decided activity. The first year the girls made signs and cards that were used at the airport to greet a refugee family. This year, the GEMS hosted a pizza party.
The pizza party involved Shortt’s group, the Grade 4 GEMS group, as well as two girls (in grades 4 and 6) who recently came to Canada as refugees. The group of 15 girls went to a local grocery store where they spent the evening making pizzas and apple crisp while getting to know each other.
Shortt said she would be happy to share her resources with other clubs interested in doing the badge. She recently shared her material with the GEMS head office as well.
Refugees of Hope is made up of Ebenezer CRC, Hagersville Community CRC,
Immanuel Christian Reformed Church in Simcoe, Ont., Kingsway Church in Balmoral, Ont.,
Maranatha CRC in York, Ont., and Sweets Corners Christian Church. Shortt said this rural network of churches works together on many initiatives. The Hagersville GEMS club has joined with Ebenezer and “our newcomer friends Klara and Sarah regularly attend the Maranatha GEMS club.”