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Refugee co-sponsorship group went from volunteers to family members in less than a year

ACC, a refugee resettlement agency in Denver, is looking for groups of seven to welcome a family of refugees and help them navigate their new lives.

DENVER — Grandmothers love showing off family photos, but the ones the grandmothers around a table in Denver pull up aren't of their grandkids. 

"So there's Elian and Jorlin," said Rita Rinner, pointing at her phone.

"This is when I took Mayco and Elian to the Rapids game," said Jan Devor, pulling up another photo on her phone. 

The pictures these grandmothers are showing off are of a family they met nine months ago. It's a family from Guatemala that has become their own. 

"At ACC, we have a group called co-sponsorship, which is where we invite seven or more volunteers to raise some funds to gather some in-kind donations to nest a home for a refugee family, and then to partner with the refugee family for their first nine months in the United States," said Kate Weatherbee, the volunteer manager at the ECDC African Community Center. 

The co-sponsorship group for Elian and Jorlin's family is made up of grandmothers and a group from the Ignatian Volunteer Corps. Together, they came up with a plan to help resettle the Caal Osorio family, who came here as refugees because they were facing persecution in Guatemala. 

Elian Caal Osorio answered interview questions in Spanish, and his answers were translated to English by a 9NEWS translator. 

Credit: 9NEWS

"As a family, we've always been united," said Caal Osorio. "We were threatened, and there was persecution against my family." 

The sponsorship group helped them navigate a new life. 

"Teaching them the bus routes was a major adventure for all of us," said Devor. "Getting their internet installed, there are so many things that people need to have help with when they come to this country." 

Offering help wasn't always easy. 

"I don’t speak any Spanish, and they don’t speak any English, so that has been such a challenge," said Mary Sue Kessler. "Until we discovered Google translate, that has helped, and sign language. And there’s been a lot of humorous occasions when you’re trying to communicate and you’re not communicating, and then you just start laughing." 

Laughter only brought them closer. 

"We didn’t know anyone when we got here, so it’s been a new experience meeting people here," said Caal Osorio. "We consider them part of our family because of all the support they’ve given us." 

Most people have two grandmothers, this family has seven more. 

"Absolutely they’re part of my family," said Kessler. 

The official co-sponsorship with the resettlement agency has ended. But their connection with this family will continue. They've already got plans for a dinner, and a trip to the zoo and an urban farm.

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