UUCE’s Refugee Sanctuary Project

The Refugee Sanctuary Project is one of UUCE’s Earth Equuity projects.

The Earth Equuity program was proposed by Reverend Sydney and the Board of Trustees and adopted by the congregation in 2015 to encourage whole-congregation participation in social justice projects aimed at issues growing out of climate change and oppression.

The proposal for a Refugee Sanctuary project called for researching and educating the congregation about the rapidly worsening refugee crisis, investigating ways to provide direct aid to refugees, and combating Islamophobia and hate speech.

The Refugee Sanctuary group held its first meeting in early January 2016. Its first project was to collect warm clothing for Syrian refugees arriving Greece after crossing the Mediterranean Sea.

Group members searched for like-minded organizations in Eugene. We found a great deal of concern everywhere about the plight of the Syrian refugees. By March, other faith communities had organized their own refugee committees and the Refugee Resettlement Coalition of Lane County began to form to receive refugees from the federal resettlement program. Our Refugee Sanctuary group was an early community member of the RRCLC, with a member on the Coalition’s steering committee, and another active in the material donations committee. When the first Syrian family arrived in Eugene, one of our members became an advocate for the family.

UUCE’s Refugee Sanctuary project is an open group, and we welcome your participation and ideas.

Meetings are announced in the weekly order of service.

Upcoming Events

We Are Neighbors, the touring version of Now, I Am Your Neighbor, a play telling stories generously shared by immigrants who live in Lane County, will premiere with two, free performances at the University of Oregon. Originally produced by Community Alliance of Lane County (CALC), in partnership with Minority Voices Theatre (MVT), the play was inspired by an original piece created and performed 20 years ago, as part of the “We Are Neighbors” project of CALC and Network for Immigrant Justice, which included the play, and a photography exhibit (coming to UUCE in June 2018) and quilt, all featuring Lane County immigrants. The new play includes references from the original play but is primarily based on new interviews with members of some of the most targeted and marginalized groups living in the Eugene-Springfield area, including Muslims, undocumented immigrants, DREAMers, and Syrian refugees.  This half-hour play will be followed by a community discussion in which members of the audience are welcome to share their feedback, experience and observations.

Currently showing thru May 20: 
Common Ground  Human rights and dignity photo exhibit of Fazal Sheikh’s photographs.  For more information see: https://portlandartmuseum.org/exhibitions/common-ground/  Portland Art Museum 

June 2018: 
We Are Neighbors photo exhibit at UUCE.  This month-long exhibit consists of 23 photographs of immigrants who live in Lane County. The exhibit includes photographs from the original  We Are Neighbors collection, which first premiered in 1996. This expanding collection celebrates the contributions and inspirational life stories of immigrants as integral members of our local community and our neighbors. Participants in the exhibit emigrated from countries including Chile, Palestine, Ireland, Germany, Mexico, Japan, and India. Local photographers include Paul Dix, Melissa Nolledo, Herb Everett, and Irwin Noparstak.

Join our We Are Neighbors Photographer’s Reception on
Friday, June 8th at the UUCE Chapel,  5:30 – 7:00 pm

ACTION Resources

PETITIONNot Fair: Kids Alone in Court!

Stay on top of displacement news around the world with The Refugee Brief.

Advocate NOW! Resources from Refugee Council USA

The Campsfield Monitor, the Campaign to close Campsfield and End All Immigration Detention (UK)



Letters in Support of Refugees

Cooperation Releases Abundance!

School Supply Kits Create New Connections

Fall 2017 service project

The political shutdown on refugee intake has left many in the Eugene/Springfield community with much energy and enthusiasm, but with few means to feel effective. The UU Refugee Sanctuary Project co-sponsored and hosted Eugene’ first World Refugee Day last June and screened the documentary “After Spring” at the Eugene Public Library. This fall, we learned of a refugee relief kit program organized and administered by the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). The kits consist of sewn drawstring bags containing basic school supplies to be to be distributed to children overseas, many restricted to refugee camps without resources or activities. Over 70,000 school kits were assembled last year across the nations and sent to waiting hands in regions of crisis and disaster.

Our UU group recognized that the timing for this project was ideal during the holiday season when people are already inclined to good causes. We began with a modest goal of 50 school kits. Our church’s sewing group “Quilting for a Cause” was already working on quilts for St. Vincent de Paul’s new Youth House Project in the former Cascade Presbyterian Church, but they were eager to help us. As bags were completed, donations of school supplies were being dropped off each Sunday after service at our project information table. We provided shopping lists (with local pricing for best deals) and maintained a chart that tallied up what supplies we had received and what were still needed.

Barbara Flitcroft’s daughter and her Baby Bootcamp group donated supplies for 30 school kits. Our reaction to this generous offer was to increase our project goal to100 kits. In addition, UUCE’s Religious Education program wanted to get involved. On a December Sunday, two Spirit Jam groups of about 20 kids helped to assemble contents for 40 more sewn bags. 

By the end of December, we upped our target to grand total of 130 school kits, and a new wave of sewing commenced. In the meantime, Reverend Sydney, always supportive of the project and the ways it had engaged so many in our congregation, offered to dedicate Christmas Eve offerings towards the school kit fund. We purchased the remaining supplies, and after Sunday service on January 7, we finished packing the remainder of the kit contents in their colorful drawstring bags.


The completed kits were then delivered to the Eugene Mennonite Church in west Eugene to await transport to Hubbard, Oregon, then on to the next stage along their long journey.

When I think of all the circles of people who found ways to be involved with our school kit project, I remember my husband’s oft-repeated saying from our food co-op days:

“Cooperation Releases Abundance!”

by Jennifer Rowan


 Book Resources

Nujeen: One Girl’s Incredible Journey from War-Torn Syria by Nujeen Mustafa, Christina Lamb
Nujeen Mustafa, a teenager born with cerebral palsy, whose harrowing journey from war-ravaged Syria to Germany in a wheelchair is a breathtaking tale of fortitude, grit, and hope that lends a face to the greatest humanitarian issue of our time, the Syrian refugee crisis.  For millions around the globe, sixteen-year-old Nujeen Mustafa embodies the best of the human spirit. Confined to a wheelchair because of her cerebral palsy and denied formal schooling in Syria because of her illness, Nujeen taught herself English by watching American soap operas. When her small town became the epicenter of the brutal fight between ISIS militants and US-backed Kurdish troops in 2014, she and her family were forced to flee.  (Excerpt from Goodreads.com)

Go, Went, Gone
by Jenny Erpenbeck
One of the great contemporary European writers takes on Europe’s biggest issue.  Richard has spent his life as a university professor, immersed in the world of books and ideas, but now he is retired, his books remain in their packing boxes and he steps into the streets of his city, Berlin. Here, on Alexanderplatz, he discovers a new community — a tent city, established by African asylum seekers. Hesitantly, getting to know the new arrivals, Richard finds his life changing, as he begins to question his own sense of belonging in a city that once divided its citizens into them and us.  At once a passionate contribution to the debate on race, privilege and nationality and a beautifully written examination of an ageing man’s quest to find meaning in his life, Go, Went, Gone showcases one of the great contemporary European writers at the height of her powers.  (Goodreads.com)

Video Resources

Refugee’s Stories

Born under ISIS, the Children Struggling in Iraq (securing required documentation)

Stranded by the Travel Ban: a Syrian’ Family’s American Dream Crushed

Meet some of the Young Syrian Lives the IRC and Sesame Street will Change

I am Afraid of the Darkness at Night

A Friendship Born in Dance

From Damacus to Detroit

Escape to Freedom: How Five Young Rohingya Refugees are Adjusting to Life in Canada


UNHCR: The UN Refugee Agency

Detained Voices (UK)

Freed Voices (UK)

Freedom from Torture (UK)

Informed Immigrant


Connie Newman (541) 543-1685