By Gina Martinez
In an attempt to send a message to President Donald Trump and world leaders, the British charity Oxfam rented out the president’s childhood Jamaica Estates home to four refugees over the weekend.
Oxfam, an international confederation of charitable organizations focused on the alleviation of global poverty, invited refugees from Syrian, Vietnam and Somalia to the president’s former home as Trump and world leaders prepared to gather in New York for the United Nation’s General Assembly.
According to Shannon Scribner, humanitarian policy manager at Oxfam, the timing was no coincidence since the organization wanted to send an unequivocal message to world leaders: Refugees are welcome here. In a blog post, Oxfam said the current refugee crisis has created the world’s worst displacement crisis since World War II.
“What better place to show world leaders the value of a safe, welcoming home for those fleeing unthinkable situations than the childhood home of the U.S. president?” the organization wrote. “Oxfam invited refugees here to share their stories and call for greater action by the U.S. government and governments around the world to resettle and help refugees.”
Trump’s Tudor-style five-bedroom boyhood home, located at 85-15 Wareham Road, has recently been listed on Airbnb for $725 per night. In March the house was sold for $2.14 million after the property was bought at auction in January.
The refugees gathered in the home and shared their unique stories that led to them being resettled in different cities across the United States.
Oxfam noted that in a few weeks Trump will announce his decision on the number of refugees the United States will resettle in 2018. Congress is set to finalize spending bills determining the level of financial support the federal government will dedicate to aiding refugees and the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on the president’s refugee and Muslim ban.
“It has never been more important for Americans to use their voice to let their government know that refugees are welcome here, “ Oxfam said. “A cornerstone of the founding values of the United States was to offer oppressed people refuge from violence and persecution. Now, as Americans we must open our minds, hearts and communities to vulnerable refugees who are seeking a safe place to call home.”
One of the invited refugees was Abdi Iftin of Somalia. Iftin settled in the States in 2014 and now works as an advocate introducing refugees to their neighbors to help them integrate.
“There’s a stereotype that refugees are no good, that we live on welfare, but I work 12 hours a day and never receive assistance from the government,” he said. “I did not come here empty-handed. I came with skills, and I came with the perseverance to fight and contribute to the American economy. I’m a tax-paying legal resident.”
The organization acknowledged rent Trump’s childhood home was an odd approach, but hoped it would draw attention to an important cause.
“Ultimately that’s what this project was for,” the organization said. “To put those most qualified to speak about refugees, and how they should be treated, front and center. If achieving that goal requires something as unusual and frankly weird as renting the president’s childhood home, then so be it.”
Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmart