Ninety days.

That’s how long the U.S. Government allows for refugees to become self-sustaining.

90 days to learn English. 90 days to find a place to live. 90 days to find work in a new country. All the while in debt for a loan they are expected to pay back to the U.S. Federal government.

Once We Were Refugees steps in on the ninety-first day.

“We consider ourselves to be a 91st day agency,” Rev. William Say said. “We don’t resettle refugees, but when people have arrived here as refugees we, for those who want to work with us, we’ll bring them into our program.”

Once We Were Refugees (OWWR) was created by Rev. William and Mrs. Ann Say, who have been working with refugees for over 40 years. The purpose of the organization is to teach vocational skills for refugees at no cost.

Currently, OWWR focuses only on teaching sewing. Mrs. Say first taught refugees how to sew in 2016 while volunteering for Della Lamb, another Kansas City-based organization that works with refugees in the area. When she first decided to teach refugees how to sew, they had no equipment. Friday, she went to see how many sewing machines she could get.

By Saturday, she had 22.

Though sewing is currently the only skill OWWR teaches, they work with each individual to get them training for any other vocational skill they may want to learn. Oftentimes, that includes paying tuition to other organizations from the donations they receive.

Can you sew? If you’d like to help, you can volunteer to teach refugees basic sewing techniques. If you can’t sew, would you consider donating sewing supplies or funds?

However you get involved, know that you’ll be helping refugees start their new life in America. You’ll help your new neighbors achieve the dream of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

To learn more about Once We Were Refugees, visit their website at To contact them, send an email to