Children chase each other across the pavement playing “sharks and minnows,” tap each other on the head playing “duck, duck, goose,” and listen intently to Gospel stories.
The Net, a Fort Worth non-profit, believes in the power of relationships.
The play dates have been a time for building relationships between refugee children and many TCU students who volunteer with The Net.
“We kind of base ourselves off this idea that people need people a lot more than they need stuff,” said TCU alum Sarah Adams, assistant director and volunteer coordinator of The Net.
While Adams said there are organizations that provide material necessities, The Net goes a step further.
“We see ourselves providing that missing piece, which is development…us walking alongside people over a long period of time in relationships with them,” Adams said.
Aside from monthly play dates, The Net hosts a weekly discipleship program with kids at the Ladera apartments. It’s a time for members of The Net to mentor refugees and teach them about God.
TCU senior Connor Close started working with The Net his sophomore year. He said a majority of the refugees that participate in the weekly mentorship program and play dates are from a Hindu background.
“For the older kids, we are getting to the point where we actually discuss the difference between religions and why we believe that Jesus is the only way,” Close said. “It’s getting more difficult, but that’s everything that comes along with the process.”
Close said his favorite part of the program has been the relationships he has built since joining The Net. He said he also enjoys seeing the progress the kids have made assimilating to the United States.
According to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, more than 4,500 people seek refuge in Texas every year. Adams said the Ladera Apartments house more than 500 of these refugees.
Adams is not the only member of The Net from TCU. Most volunteers are current TCU students who found out about the program through their churches.
This month, The Net collaborated with a new women’s ministry on TCU’s campus.
Delight is a program on many college campuses. Last year, sophomore Brooke Ingram brought it to TCU.
In an effort to find a community service project, TCU sophomore Maggie Streelman reached out to Ty Bowden, the Ladera Kids Program Manager.
“A huge part of delight is encouraging us to not only build community between the women on our campus, but to take that community and serve the local community in whatever way we can come up with,” Streelman said. “Had I not sought out the opportunity to do this community service type thing, I probably would not have known what they do here.”
Streelman also said this play date allowed her to see what lies outside of the “TCU Bubble.”
The play date program consists of playing games and coloring with volunteers after listening to and briefly discussing a Bible story.
Lending direction and support to the refugees in the Ladera community is meaningful for both the children and volunteers.
The mentorship and play date program is just one of many services The Net provides. They also work to raise awareness about sex trafficking and share meals and play games with the homeless.
“We believe that people in our community are very capable,” Adams said. “All they need is a little bit of direction and connection to people in these kinds of communities so that they can walk in transforming relationships that are really beneficial to both sides.”