Notre Dame Sisters Assist Nonprofit Dedicated to Helping Immigrants

By Sr. Mary Ann Zimmer, ND and Sr. Margaret Hickey, ND

I was a stranger and you welcomed me.  Matthew 25:35

One of Omaha’s newest residents is 17-year-old Helen, who arrived in Omaha in July with only the clothes on her back. She with her parents and siblings had fled Venezuela, leaving everything because recent political and economic turmoil has made it impossible for people to sustain even their most basic needs. Now, in October, Helen is beginning to find a new place in the world. She has companionship and confidence through the Benson High School soccer team. She is part of a close-knit group and is thriving in her classes. Her family has a rental apartment, and her siblings are in school.

How did Helen and her family get from July to October? The answer can be found in their strength and determination and in the open hearts of the members of a new Omaha non-profit.

Omaha Welcomes the Stranger is a local non-profit dedicated to assisting immigrants arriving in Omaha. These are families seeking asylum after fleeing violence, economic turmoil, or persecution in their home countries. What happens when families arrive in the U.S. alone without family members or a sponsor? Welcoming such families is the mission of OWS!

Omaha Welcomes the Stranger receives immigrants into a temporary shelter where families can receive short-term lodging and food and arrangements can be made for basic healthcare and legal assistance. This, though, is only the very first step. OWS also organizes volunteers and solicits funds to extend a helping hand for the 6-12 months it takes a family to get their situation stabilized.

Among these families’ needs are:

  • Housing—a challenge in today’s market
  • Food
  • Assistance with school enrollment
  • Transportation to healthcare & legal appointments
  • Employment—it takes 6-12 months for adults to obtain work permits.
  • Financial support

It’s a pleasure to tell Helen’s story; it is such a very gratifying one. But there are so many other Helens in our midst waiting.  The Notre Dame Sisters have joined OWS with others to contribute leadership, hands on assistance, and significant financial support to this effort. Can you join OWS in reaching out to others of our sisters and brothers? There are many, many ways of being part of this ministry, part time, very part time and more than part time.  And your prayerful support is always welcome!

You can contact OWS through Sr. Mary Kay Meagher, ND, or Tom & Margaret Hoardy, 402-553-7547.

Sr. Margaret Hickey’s perspective: 

Sr. Margaret, with 4-5 very committed volunteers, collects, sorts, and distributes clothing to the men, women and children at the shelter.  With the changing seasons and temperatures within each season, they make sure the refugees have the clothing they need to remain healthy.  Recently, this volunteer group distributed winter clothing to the mothers who were “shopping” for their families assisting with right sizes and colors.  The volunteers delighted playing with the toddlers who were present while their mothers shopped.   The volunteers discovered that they need more volunteers who speak Spanish!

For Sr. Margaret personally, this activity brings to life the Gospel mandate to clothe the naked and to feed the hungry.  It is good to read the passage and to pray for those in need, but to be actually meeting the need is such a blessing, for everyone involved.  It also has opened the whole picture of inequality in our world, the prejudices among us, and the need to make sure that each individual has respect and dignity each day of their lives.  Sr. Margaret not only seeks clothing, but seeks justice and support for those in need by inviting other to assist and to look for ways to change systems that perpetuate injustices.