Churches and temple join to give school supplies to refugee families

WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) Pencils, markers, notebooks and much more await students ready to take on the classrooms. The free supplies were provided by a group of churches and a temple for a special group.

"We would rather them use their precious resources paying rent and provide housing stability than to spend it on back to school," Pastor Brent Johnston said.

Johnston is the pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Wichita and he said for the past three years, they've been providing school supplies to families. Families he said are important and maybe overlooked.

"This really isn't a Presbyterian thing. This really is a refugee thing," he said.

"I want to be a teacher like go to WSU and when I'm done with that, be a teacher," Hibo Abdullahi said.

Hibo is 17-years-old and ready to graduate high school in Wichita. She's from Somalia and after fleeing that country spent years in Uganda before coming to the United States with her family.

She said in her home country, women don't study and men often quit studying when they become teenagers. That's one of many things she wishes she could change about Somalia.

"There is a war in my country. A lot of things that are going on in my country so we just thought that we could get help and that we could live better lives," she said.

Leaving Somalia was dangerous and Hibo said she and her family had to leave everything behind. That's why this event meant so much and not just to Hibo.

"It is the real meaning of community service because you know the world that it is today, we really want to reach out to as many people as we want and there are a lot of different communities within Wichita as well," Manasi Kulkarmi said.

Kulkarmi and Aditi Pradhu represent the Hindu Temple of Greater Wichita and said though they don't see many refugees at their temple, they wanted to include children from the temple to show them what other walks of life are like.

It wasn't just school supplies or spending time, the churches also provided health care for the families including dental work and vaccinations.

This year, members of First Presbyterian, Grace Presbyterian, Trinity Presbyterian, Korean Presbyterian Churches and the Hindu Temple of Greater Wichita partnered with the International Rescue Committee and the Episcopal Migration Ministries to hold the event. They say they aren't done and plan to hold this event again next year in hopes of having more sponsors.

"They help my mom so much," Hibo said. "I really appreciate what they have done for us."