Last July our congregation received an opportunity. A great opportunity. A gift really. We were presented with the opportunity to support and nurture a young man who walked from Honduras to the USA in order to seek religious liberty. Wilfredo Perez, our new friend, was persecuted in his homeland for his religious views. Wilfredo is an Evangelical Christian. He was targeted within his home community and he had the courage to start walking towards a better life. Today Wilfredo is able to worship freely at a local church full of Spanish speakers! And he has applied for asylum.
Kol Ami member Stephanie Rose has been housing and caring for Wilfredo since the day he left the Northwest Detention Center last Summer. Stephanie, several Kol Ami members, and at-large community members have been engaging Wilfredo and developing relationships with him- relationships that we hope and pray will last a lifetime. Kol Ami tzedakah resources have gone towards helping Wilfedo with essential dental care. Kol Ami members have also donated computers and other needed items. I want to thank those who have stepped up over the past 6 months to befriend Wilfredo and to assist Stephanie in this holy task of providing asylum. Together we can change the life of one individual and their family. Generations will be impacted by the love and care we show Wilfredo. Goodness abounds in this community. Our ancestors are smiling upon us.
I want to share with you some of Wilfredo's relationships and experiences over the past 6 months. Not just to inform you on his resettlement here in America but also to perhaps inspire you to get more involved with Kol Ami's refugee resettlement work. Wilfredo is in need of more new friends, people who can include him in activities and spend time with him during the week. This is a huge mitzvah. I think about all of the people who helped Jews to resettle and build new lives. This is our opportunity to transform the life of one young man and his entire family.
Fast Fun Facts about Wilfredo:
Wilfredo is 21 years old.
He celebrated his 21st birthday in the US.
His 21st bday party was the first birthday party he experienced.
He is from a small village in Santa Barbara, Honduras.
There are 89 families in the village. His aunt and uncle also live in the village.
He has two brothers, Oscar who is 14, and Noe who is 22.
Wilfredo loves plants and gardening. He loves to laugh. He loves and misses his family. He speaks to them every day
Since coming to Kirkland these are some of the new things Wilfredo has experienced and learned to do (and even taught others how to do). It is an impressive list!
Wilfredo experienced his first Shabbat dinner with the Rabbi and a handful of other members.
Wil has quickly learned how to use a computer. Thank you to the Kol Ami family who donated it. you know who you are!
He is learning English. He was taking two English classes online. One with JFS and one with Bellevue College. He is understanding a lot of spoken English now. He will continue with the Bellevue College class since it is online and at night. He will not be able to continue with the JFS English class since it is at 10 am and Wilfredo recently received his work permit and wants to work full time.
He went on the Ferris wheel in Seattle and to a Sounders game with Jonny Medina.
He had dinner with Ellie Hochman's family and played soccer with her cousins and celebrated Sandy's birthday.
Went to Bellevue Botanical Gardens Delights with Stephanie's book club.
Went hiking in Mt. Rainer and Mt. Elinor.
Plays Goaltimate Saturday mornings at 10 am at Crossroads Park in Kirkland. Come join him!
He likes to watch football on Sundays with Liz Koch and her family. Although he does not understand the game he enjoys the company. He celebrated Christmas with their family too.
Has made friends his own age Jonny Koch, Liz's son, and Aaron, Stephanie's son. Jonny invited Wil to a party with his friends and has taken Wil with him to a class a UW.
Jesse Zook Mann showed Wilfredo Seattle and took him out to pizza.
He enjoyed his first Thanksgiving with Stephanie's family.
Mike Woldman introduced Wilfredo to his family and showed Wilfredo his horses.
Wilfredo thought Stephanie and Liz how to make tamales with banana leaves which is a Christmas tradition in Honduras.
Wilfredo walked to the grocery store in the rain to get ingredients for a soup to cook for Stephanie for her birthday.
I do not know much about the way this world works but I know one thing for sure: change and transformation are possible. Making a huge impact in the life of one individual, one family, is indeed possible. Lives can be saved. AND we are all part of one big human family. if you have the time and space in your life to include Wilfredo in your life, as a friend or member of Kol Ami, more connections are not just wanted but needed.
In the words of Margret Meade: Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.