Iraqi refugees get help in adapting to U.S. life

It didn't take long for parishioners at St. Matthew Church in Ceres to launch a plan to help a wave of Iraqi refugees who began settling in Stanislaus County last summer.

Their church is a natural magnet for Iraqi Christians because many of its members are Iraqi immigrants themselves.

They formed a support group, and within weeks began collecting furniture and other items for war refugees who brought next to nothing with them to the United States.

Last month, that core group went in a new direction by creating a Turlock-based nonprofit organization that would match refugees with donations and with volunteers who can help them make a transition to American life.

Light From the East ( is busy gathering contributions and helping refugees with everyday tasks.

Esther Warda, one of the nonprofit's leaders, spoke with The Bee last week about the new group. Here are excerpts from that conversation. The full audio interview is available with this story at

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