Ministry with Refugees in Hungary

Ministry with Refugees in Hungary


Margaret Emma Perry serves with the Reformed Church in Hungary (RCH).

At the community hub of the Hungarian Reformed Church Aid’s (HRCA) Refugee Ministry, clients bustle in and out throughout the day for visits with social workers, housing or medical support, interpreters, language courses, and others. The community hub, however, is more than an office where clients come for integration support. Throughout the week, the large meeting rooms fill with clients for various community events. In the previous year, the community hub hosted a weekly club for older individuals in the Ukrainian community, regular drama and music clubs, weekly art therapy sessions, weekly prayer gatherings, and many more. This year, alongside the ongoing community events carried over from last year, the community hub has added additional events and meetings to its schedule.

            At the Refugee Ministry, community engagement programs are an essential aspect of integration and promote social cohesion among clients and their new community. Mári Juniki, the Community Events Coordinator at the Refugee Ministry, explains that “Community events give the participants the opportunity to meet with peers and people who share similar experiences. For those who went through traumatizing events or feel isolated in the host country, it is essential to find a way to belong somewhere.”

            Together, staff and volunteers work to regularly organize and run a variety of programs aimed at enriching connections within the community. The diversity and creativity of the Refugee Ministry’s community events ensure that all demographics have the opportunity to engage themselves in the events that suit their interests. The Community Events Coordinator said that planning involves consideration of the balance between the target group and the type of events. At the end of the day, however, a significant goal of the social clubs and community events is “to forget about everyday life challenges for a while and have a good time playing, chatting, eating, creating art together, watching a theater piece, listening to a concert, etc.”

            Among those programs available for kids, the Refugee Ministry hosted a summer day camp last June open to children from both the Ukraine Response Program and the Base Integration Program. This provided an opportunity for adolescents from diverse backgrounds to come together in an open setting to engage in games and team-building activities and to generally familiarize themselves.

            Another recent program for kids was the drama and theatre club. Leading up to the large Christmas events, participants gathered every week under the direction of Mári, the events coordinator, and volunteers to construct and practice their own theatrical performance. A benefit of these performances is that pieces of each act were performed in Ukrainian, Hungarian, and English. Therefore, everyone could participate, no matter their language skills. The performance included acts from popular fairy tales such as Little Red Riding Hood. Most recently, in February, the community hub hosted a Carnival Event, where kids could participate in games and arts and crafts such as mask making. Some staff members even dressed up in carnival-themed costumes to add to the atmosphere. These larger events usually occur monthly and are based upon a theme catered to the interests of the participants or based on an upcoming holiday.

            When it comes to events for adults, volunteers and staff plan interesting trips and also on-site training for specific skills such as legal counseling and CV drafting, among others. Last year, adults took trips to surrounding cities such as Eger and Visegrád; closer trips took the adults hiking through the rolling hills of Normafa Park on the Buda side of the city and seeing performances at various theatre and music houses and the famous Budapest Opera House.

            More regular events at the community hub included a monthly prayer group, which meets at the community center every Saturday, and the senior club for Ukrainian adults. The prayer group has been an immensely impactful space for both clients and members of the broader community to meet and worship together, offering each other a steadfast presence and solidarity in times of uncertainty. This prayer group, last year, was a vital forum for individuals to pray for their families and loved ones who remain in challenging circumstances but also to welcome new families into the community in Budapest.

            The senior club is particularly popular every week. This event is for elder Ukrainians living in Hungary; the original concept was brought forth to the community hub by clients who wished to find a space to connect with each other. This event is largely client-guided, with the community hub offering one of its larger gathering rooms and staff helping with coffee, tea, snacks, and logistical help. In fact, this gathering gets quite lively, with laughter and conversation pouring out from the room. 

            When involved in and bearing witness to the joy and communion shared in community events, one is reminded of the essentialism of space when it comes to fellowship. The community hub is, on the one hand, a workplace wherein clients come to meet their social workers, where staff meets with clients on subjects of housing assistance and medical assistance, educational training, and so much more. Beyond this, though, the office is a dedicated community space wherein refugee communities may join together, bound by their shared experiences, and grow. Mári Juniki emphasized the power of community development and bottom-up processes; these types of events provide “the chance for members of our community to come up with ideas.” Events such as the prayer group, cultural days, and the senior club are perfect examples of this.

            More than being a space to gather, the community hub, with a combination of dedicated staff and a strong community, works every day to adapt to the needs of its community. And so, as we go into 2024, the Refugee Ministry has added new workshops, events, and clubs. For example, the success of the drama club for kids intrigued a number of adults, and now the community center hosts a regular adult drama club. Moving into the spring and summer seasons further expands the opportunities for organizing meaningful gatherings outside, and to take advantage of the great weather, good parks, and joyful activities.”

Margaret Emma Perry

Emma’s appointment with the Reformed Church in Hungary is made possible by your gifts to Disciples Mission Fund, Our Church’s Wider Mission, Week of Compassion, and special gifts. Make a gift that supports the work of Margaret Emma Perry