Category Archives: General Comments

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

UNSETTLED Screens in SF, LA, SLC… and beyond!

UNSETTLED: SEEKING REFUGE IN AMERICA is hitting the film festivals, showing why refugees and asylum seekers really come to the United States. The documentary follows 4 newcomers as they work to find stability in San Francisco.

One of the Guardian Group’s clients, Junior Mayema, is featured in the film which also includes a couple of our group’s volunteers as they work with Junior. The photo below is from the film and shows Galen Workman (on the left) and Melanie Nathan greeting Junior as he arrives at the San Francisco Airport from South Africa.

Galen Workman and Melanie Nathan greet Junior Mayema at SFO as he arrives from South Africa.

UNSETTLED is powerful, depressing, and hopeful. See it!

Tickets for the San Francisco Frameline Pride screening — Sunday, June 23 at 1 pm — are still available!

A trailer for the film and additional information is available on the documentary film website. That site also has a SEE IT page telling when the film is coming to festivals around the world.

“Unsettled” Hits the Castro Theater June 23rd at 1 pm

Unsettled: Seeking Refuge in America returns to San Francisco as part of the Frameline queer film festival. It’s scheduled to be shown at 1 pm, Sunday, June 23 at the historic Castro Theater. Following the screening there will be a panel discussion “Troubled Sanctuary: LGBTQ+ Refugees, Asylum Seekers, and Immigrants in the US.”

Unsettled documents the fight of two lesbians and two gay men to flee the persecution of their home countries and settle in San Francisco. Junior Mayema, a client of the Guardian Group, is one of the film’s subjects.

Come and see this documentary that shows what the Guardian Group does and who we help!.

Tickets starting May 28th.

 filmmakers, subjects, helpers, and friends at the documentary's director's preview in April, 2019.
UNSETTLED: SEEKING REFUGE IN AMERICA filmmakers, subjects, helpers, and friends at the documentary’s director’s preview in April, 2019. photo by © Lydia Daniller

Dealing with Realities

The Guardian Group steering committee decided in May, 2018 to suspend its routine meetings and operation.

Guardian Group Getting Ready to March in Pride 2017First, the US government’s anti-refugee policy has stopped newcomers from coming to the Bay Area. The group last received a refugee client in July, 2017. While a trickle of other queer refugees – maybe two or three this year – have come to the Bay Area, the official volunteer agency (VOLAG) tasked with resettling them has placed all them in the East Bay.

That brings up the second reason the group has not had additional clients: the housing costs in San Francisco. Even with the very modest government benefits for refugees, it is very, very difficult to find places for newcomers to stay that fit their small budget. So, the VOLAG has relied on people in the East Bay who have volunteered to provide discounted housing for its few new clients. There haven’t been enough new refugees for the VOLAG to seriously try to locate refugee housing in San Francisco.

Moreover, attempting to help newly-arrived asylum seekers is beyond the capability of our small volunteer program. Asylum seekers receive no government assistance and are ineligible for public benefits (except for medical care in San Francisco). Our group feels that it would be misleading to offer help to asylum seekers when the costs of living cheaply in San Francisco still is well over $1,000 a month and our foreseeable donations and gifts total only a few thousand dollars for the year. We cannot responsibly offer to “support” a new asylum seeker arriving in San Francisco.

Rather than meeting while having no new people to help, the Guardian Group has decided to support its existing clients who still qualify for aid. We are ready to start meeting again as soon as our committee finds out newcomers are coming, housing is available, or donations are flowing in.

We have volunteers ready to reactivate the group when new refugees arrive.

But, for the moment, we will check in, mentor, and care about the 18 people we have met as refugees and asylum seekers since 2011.

We plan on celebrating at the church some individual refugee and asylum seeker success stories in the fall, and we give great thanks for the members and friends who have supported our clients with housing, financial donations, and love.

Thank You! You Gave $6,195!!

Faithify Funded noticeThe Guardian Group is very grateful to the many people who gave money to help LGBT refugees and asylum seekers settle in San Francisco.

You were very generous, and we promise to use the money wisely.

We set an ambitious goal of $5,000 at the urging of our Senior Minister, the Rev. John Buehrens. He said that members of our home Unitarian Universalist community, their friends, and other people of faith were sure to come through.

If we didn’t get $5,000 in pledges, we would get nothing.  That’s crazy, but we signed up for that!

And, you came through.  Thank you!

By the end of the campaign on the Fourth of July donors pledged $6,195. That’s 123.9% of our goal.

Thank you so much!