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How a 13-year-old boy is helping refugee families

Noah (center) and his parents during the blessing of the bread and candles the night before his bar mitzvah service

A bar mitzvah celebrates a significant milestone in the Jewish faith: the religious adulthood of a boy on his 13th birthday. For girls, the ceremony is called a bat mitzvah. As part of the preparations for both, students often take on social action projects.

For his bar mitzvah project, Noah King chose to raise money for the refugee program at Aurora Walker’s Point Community Clinic in Milwaukee.

“Most of these refugees are fleeing because of war or they were being oppressed by their government for religion,” explained Noah. “It can be hard for first-generation immigrants to fully integrate into society, and the clinic helps them do everything: learning English, cooking and getting health services.”

Noah set an initial goal of raising $1,800 and sent emails asking his family members and friends to support his project. So far, he’s raised nearly $2,400.

As part of his project, Noah interviewed Po Too, who came to Wisconsin as a refugee from Burma in 2006. She was 14 years old.

“She and her family were forced to flee Burma because the government did not accept them and their religion. They had two choices – get killed or flee,” he said. “They chose to cross the border into Thailand where they stayed in a refugee camp for nearly ten years.”

When Po and her family arrived in Wisconsin, they were sponsored by a church in Lake Geneva. They got help transitioning to a new home, learning English and connecting with services in the community.

Now, Po is a bilingual community health worker at the Walker’s Point Community Clinic.

“As a former refugee, I know the struggle when moving to a new country when there are language barriers, different cultures and unfamiliar surroundings,” she shared. “This is the reason why I chose this job so I can give back to my community. I want these families to feel welcome and safe in their new homes. I believe I can be a voice for refugee communities and help them to become more independent in their new lifestyle.”

How you can help

Aurora Walker’s Point Community Clinic is the largest free clinic in Wisconsin and relies on philanthropy to support programs like Refugee Health and Social Services.

“Donor support plays an important role in sustaining the development and execution of innovative culturally inclusive and responsive programs and services such as our Welcome Neighbor Program that mentors and assists refugee communities in stabilizing and acclimating to their new lives in Milwaukee,” explained program coordinator Kai Gardner-Mishlove.

The refugee program seeks to empower patients by addressing barriers to health care and social services in order to improve health outcomes and uplift communities.

“I think all people who come to the U.S.A. should get help like this,” said Noah. “This can’t be possible without the support of the community. Donations would allow the clinic to be able to help many others, and I’m sure it would mean a lot to the families they help.”

You can support his project and help refugees in Milwaukee by making a gift to the Walker’s Point Community Clinic in honor of Noah King.

You can also support programs close to home here.