Hello! I am Gail Harvey, the founder and director of a non-profit called “Don’t Cry…I’m Here”. Founded in July 2017, our mission is to welcome and comfort newly arriving refugee children into the Minneapolis/St. Paul and St. Cloud area with a Tote Bag of ethnically sensitive, age appropriate and comforting gifts. We provide our Tote Bags to all newly arriving refugee children between the ages of newborn to 18 years old that arrive through our resettlement agencies. We work with Lutheran Social Services-Refugee Services in Minneapolis and St. Cloud, MN, Arrive Ministries in the Twin Cities, and The Center for Victims of Torture in the Twin Cities.
Many refugee children have experienced severe trauma from either experiences in refugee camps or from danger they have experienced in their home country. When these refugee children come to the United States, they often don’t have much but the clothes on their back. “Don’t Cry…I’m Here” provides toys that are culturally sensitive to each child for this very reason. We bridge the gap between trauma of where they came from and healing here in the United States. Our goal is to assist in helping a developing child become the best they can be by offering them what we think of as “therapy toys” that help them cope with their trauma and displacement.
Little girls receive a doll, ethnically dressed, with a great selection of doll clothing, quilt and pillow, and other fun doll accessories. Little boys receive a Teddy Bear, also ethnically dressed, with a few extra outfits, a quilt and blanket for the Teddy Bear and a few fun age appropriate, non-violent toys. Teens receive teen-appropriate gifts like a soccer ball, football or basketball, mp3 player, hoodies, a special journal and pen to write down their personal thoughts, an ethnic fabric styled purse for the teen girls, etc. All of our gifts are brand new…and probably some of the first NEW toys that some of the children have had.
Our goal is to give these kids a doll or bear to love, hug, talk to, cry with, and laugh with as they adjust to their new land. These dolls and bears also help kids learn nurturing skills, which is a skill typically learned from the example of their parents. Sometimes, normal parental examples have been compromised because families were in dangerous situations and refugee camps. These kids benefit greatly from their dolls and bears and those learned nurturing skills carry into the future in their own parenting.
We have a group of over 550 members from around the country and some members from outside of the United States that work hard to provide “Don’t Cry…I’m Here” with the things we need to provide these beautiful welcoming gifts to our refugee children. We have many generous members that donate money to purchase the brand new dolls and bears that we provide, and some members purchase the dolls online and have them sent directly to us. We have very gifted members that sew, knit and crochet beautiful ethnic clothing that we dress the dolls in for packaging. We also include western culture clothing, quilts & pillows and Tote Bags. Many members don’t know how to knit, crochet or sew…so they donate money to our Paypal Giving Fund to help us purchase the items we need. We also are generously supported by Walmart, Target and Costco.
Each of our Tote Bags include a hand made Welcome to the United States card, made from children around the country. Some of the children that make these cards are kids or grandkids of our members, some are from elementary schools, some are girl scouts. We also have cards that are colored for our Teen Totes. We want the newly arriving refugees to feel welcomed by our United States Children. At the same time, this has given our United States children an opportunity to learn about our refugee crisis. It helps them feel like they are doing something to make a difference.
We are growing rapidly to ensure that we can accommodate all of the requests from our resettlement agencies. And with that growth, there are always financial growing pains. If you would like to join us in our work, financially support us, or learn more about us, please visit our website, Facebook group, or send an email message to “Don’t Cry…I’m Here”.
Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/592149704293514/?ref=bookmarks
Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for taking a minute to get to know us at “Don’t Cry…I’m Here”. We hope to see you along our journey of this very necessary work.