Joani Akers dedicates her life to helping refugees at St. Louis’ Oasis International

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ST. LOUIS – There is a place in St. Louis for refugees to go if they have lost their family, jobs, homes or even their own country. They are greeted with love and care as they seek refuge and try to start anew. Oasis International wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the vision and mission of one woman, a FOX 2 Remarkable Woman Joani Akers.

Akers and her husband found themselves at a crossroad when they got laid off as pastors at a church in West County. That is when Oasis International began.

“I left my job and really God has just provided for us this is all donations for churches, individuals and people that just believe this is what we are supposed to do, to love these people who have come to our city,” Akers said.

It doesn’t take long, to see the love and compassion Akers has for these families. She leads English classes and has helped hundreds become US citizens. From welcoming newborns to counseling women in trauma, her generosity knows no bounds.

In 2006, the Akers were blessed with this building on Gravois in south St. Louis and it has given refugees a place to call home and a place that offers hope and peace. (drone shot)

“So then they come to St. Louis and wow, they need a lot of help, a lot of help, practical help, emotional help, so it’s been a joy. Believe me the thing that has blessed me and surprised me is just what a blessing it is to help these people,” Akers said.

“God’s word has a lot to say about loving the foreigner in your city and so we take that seriously. Ya know, he defends the widow and the orphan, or person. He’s not partial, he loves these people, so there’s a reason they’ve been brought, they’ve come here so that we might reach out to them and help them.”

The couple knows first-hand where some of the refugees lived before fleeing to America. They visited a refugee camp with 120,000 people living in it in Jordan on the border of Syria to see relatives of some of the refugees in St. Louis.

“They have been through the trauma of a war and then many of them have lived in refugee camps for years, I mean 20 years even and then some, less than 1 percent get out of the refugee camps,” Akers said.

Every year 500 to 1000 refugees come to St. Louis from 35 different nations with the promise of starting a new life.

“We’re really just like a mom and dad to these young families because many of them they have lost their dads. Their dad’s may have been killed in the war or their parents are alive, but they are thousands of miles away,” Akers said.

They also have volunteers that help them run Oasis International. They also have a good neighbor program that connects St. Louisans to a refugee family.

“The refugees that have come to St. Louis we watch them getting better and better and there is someone there to kind of walk alongside them,” Akers said.

Even though Joani Akers was nominated as a FOX 2 Remarkable Woman, her focus quickly moved to the refugees.

“There are many, many remarkable women and I tell you the refugee women that I know are extremely remarkable.” To learn more about Oasis International or to donate, click here.

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