Author Archives: Galen Workman

Guardian Group Discusses “Unsettled”

Humanists & Non-Theists Present a Discussion of
“How this UU Community Helped Settle the Unsettled”
Sunday, August 16
1:00 p.m.

The Humanists and Non-Theists of the First Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco present a discussion of the Guardian Group and the Documentary “Unsettled”.

Junior, Galen, and Jen capturing a moment.

In 2011 members of the Society acted on a request from the Unitarian Universalists United Nations Office to help gay and lesbian refugees settle in San Francisco. We were asked to assist newly arrived refugees with navigating US institutions such as MUNI, DMV, and Costco for the eight months the US government pays refugee benefits.

Our commitment and our influence on these new city residents turned out to be much deeper, longer, and important to both the refugees and our volunteers. Instead of simply decoding US bureaucracy we became key emotional, social, and financial support for these new San Franciscans.

Galen Workman, one of the original UUSF Guardian Group mentors, will talk about his experience helping refugees and how it felt to be filmed by a documentary film maker for three years while working with one client.

Galen was a primary contact Junior Mayema whose story is told in Unsettled: Seeking Refuge in America. This award-winning documentary is streaming for free now through August 20 here.
The film is an excellent, realistic, and engaging look at who refugees really are and what they face when they arrive in the Bay Area.

View the movie now and join the Humanists and Non-Theists Zoom discussion Sunday, August 16 at 1pm!

Please join us by Zoom:
Meeting ID: 862 2616 3154
Passcode: 288403

Why Say “Queer” ?

Mighty Queer T-shirt in HRC store windowWe received a polite question from a visitor asking why we used the term “queer” for the people we helped when historically that word has been used as a homophobic taunt.

We are not arbitrators of good taste or cultural terminology, but we’ve seen over the past years gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersex… sexual minority… people have worked to reclaim the word “queer”. Younger people first started using it to describe their community, and it is preferred — or at least accepted — by most LGBTQI people now.

The danger in listing LGBT, LGBTI, LGBTQ, or whatever specific set of initials you choose is that you will inadvertently leave out a letter that someone will say is who they are. Using a generic term like “queer” finesses the problem of leaving someone out.

It’s likely that there are some LGBTIQ people from an older generation (like me) who still feel uncomfortable about the word “queer” because it was used against them. However, I hope that the general wide acceptance and the context we use the term in will make the most people possible feel included and respected.

I snapped this photo of the clothing for sale in the Castro Human Right’s Campaign window. They’re a pretty conservative LGBT rights organization, and even they are selling t-shirts for proud queers!

Give to the Guardian Group on National Give OUT Day

Give Out Day Logo on Rainbow BackgroundThe Guardian Group is looking for financial help to continue its work of supporting San Francisco area LGBTI refugees, asylum seekers, and asylees. This year we are participating in the Horizon Foundation’s Give OUT Day on April 20th.

Here’s the link to click with your credit card in hard on April 20th!

Give OUT Day is the national day of giving for the LGBTQ community – a 24-hour online fundraising event that unites the LGBTQ community from all areas of the United States to raise money for non-profits.

Throughout the day-long event, thousands of people make gifts to support a vast array of LGBTQ nonprofits across the country, ranging from the arts to social services agencies, advocacy groups to sports leagues, community centers to health care nonprofits. The Refugee Guardian Group is one of the charities that are participating in this event.

Of course we will happily accept donations any time. But, if you’re considering helping the cause of queer newcomers, consider acting on your generous impulses on the 20th!

We really need your help to continue our work in the community.

Here’s the link to click with your credit card in hard on April 20th!

Our Client Gets a Green Card

Junior with is Green CardLast week Junior received his permanent US residency documents, the “Green Card”.


Junior’s wait to receive his official notification of permanent residency status was long — but apparently also normal.  He applied in November, 2015 and waited about 16 months. All the while there was no news from the government — the Green Card application process is completely opaque to the “customers”.  It’s very nerve wracking, especially since the November election.

Unless you’ve done something criminal, you shouldn’t have to worry about getting the Green Card. At least as far as I know or what our clients have experienced.

But, the process takes a lot longer than is reasonable, even by the government’s standards. People waiting for Green Cards are told to get one-year extensions of the employment authorizations. But, that time expires before the Green Card arrives. So, more applications, more fees, and more anxiety.

On the other hand, it’s a real celebration when the card arrives and is in your hand!

Guardian Group Adopts Policy and Procedures Manual

Title Page from the Guardian Group Policy and Procedures ManualThe Guardian Group Steering Committee recently adopted a set of policies for our work.

It’s a sign of maturity, I guess!

Since we started meeting in 2011, much of what we did and encountered were the new to us.  We didn’t have time to codify what we were doing, and it felt like everything was being experienced for the first time.

We tried to use common sense and relied on each other to come up with standards for each situation we ran into.  Fortunately, we didn’t have any blow-ups that resulted from our seat-of-our-pants work.  But, new volunteers were frustrated at the lack of any written guidelines, and we wanted people to have an easier time pitching in.

So, we have created a policy and procedures manual.  It’s only 7 pages with two additional pages for agreements on confidentiality and volunteering.  Those last two pages are forms we ask ourselves and our new volunteers to look over and sign.

Of course, creating these policies and procedures represent another “first time” experience for the group.  We expect we left things out and may have gotten some other things wrong.  So, if you have any suggestions or questions, please feel free to comment here or to contact us.