While Sophia Soler, grades 5 and 6 teacher at Atlanta North School, was looking for a mission opportunity for her students, she heard about the refugee community in Clarkston, Ga. Clarkston, located on the east side of Atlanta, is home to a large number of refugees from more than 50 countries. Learning about the needs in this community, Soler realized an opportunity for her students to see other cultures while being able to help others in need.
The first project the students participated in was collecting food items by designing cardboard collection boxes, and then presenting their project in front of the Atlanta North Church. Before leaving for Thanksgiving break, students sorted and prepared 10 large bins of food. As students carried these bins to front doors of homes in Clarkston, they were met with faces of children from Thailand, Africa, and the Middle East.
Leading up to Christmas, students wanted to help more families and started sharing their vision with several area churches: to provide gifts for the students and 100 blankets to families in Clarkston. With financial support from the churches, students were able to collect wish lists from children in the community. The students then personally selected items from the wish lists and purchased the items through Amazon. As the packages arrived, students opened boxes with anticipation. They were excited, not to receive for themselves, but to give to another child. The students then wrapped the gifts, and hopped on the bus to Clarkston to set up a donated Christmas tree and leave the gifts for the children. Before leaving, the students again went door-to-door, handing out blankets and wishing individuals a happy holiday.
Throughout the school year, students continued reaching out to the Clarkston community by assisting a literacy center and planning a picnic in the park. But, the support didn’t end there. During the summer, Soler garnered support from the pastor, coworkers, and church members to provide art, health, safety, and nature classes to the children in Clarkston. To end the summer classes, the children were taken on a field trip to the Slime Museum in Atlanta, Ga. “This was the best field trip I have ever been on,” said one child.
During Atlanta North Church’s Vacation Bible School (VBS), students brought school supplies and filled backpacks for the children in Clarkston. “I was touched as I saw VBS attendees get excited to show me bags packed full of school supplies,” said Soler.
Reflecting on the past year of serving the Clarkston community, Soler said, “I guess you never know how a pack of rice, a Christmas gift, a book, a kind word, or a backpack can affect someone else.” But most importantly, she prays, “It shows that Jesus cares.”
Georgia-Cumberland | November 2023