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Maryland Latter-day Saints and community members held a refugee fair catered to hundreds of refugees by providing them with basic necessities.

A recent refugee explained the real-life drama of immigrating to the United States at an event in Maryland focused on helping refugees.

“The gang members took me to an empty soccer field and beat me with a baseball bat,” the refugee said. “Then they threatened to kill me.” He described how this incident forced him to embark on a perilous journey from his home in Central America for a new beginning in the United States.

The story was just one of several heart-wrenching tales heard at a refugee fair hosted by the Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland, under the faith’s program “I Was a Stranger.”

The event focused on assembling welcome kits for refugees and educating members of the community on how they could help those fleeing violence and disorder abroad. In partnership with the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization Human Rights First, 19 refugees will have the opportunity to receive asylum in the U.S.

“Speaking face to face with people who have gone through such brutal ordeals really makes you think of the parable of the good Samaritan,” said local attorney Gary Ashcroft. “Just as the Samaritan reached across cultural, national and linguistic divides to assist a man who was ‘foreign’ to him, so we are helping these good people overcome their tragic pasts and join in our great multicultural American experiment.”

The fair provided hundreds of refugees with basic necessities, including a toothbrush and comb, bed sheets and laundry detergent, which were gathered by Church and other community members. Volunteers also donated 86 women’s kits to the International Rescue Committee, 86 toiletry kits to Catholic Charities and 26 linen kits and 86 toiletry kits to Lutheran Social Services.

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