Thursday, November 17, 2016

How Do I Get Started?

There are so many ways you can support refugees who are resettling in the US.  First, decide what your resources allow you to do.  Whether you have extra time, extra money, or just a strong commitment to working for refugees, you can do something. The suggestions below can help you do that. If you have other suggestions, please comment here or email me at  I am always posting ideas and encouragment at my Facebook page.

Help make your community a welcoming place

This can be as simple as smiling at new faces in your community and stepping in to help when someone is struggling with a language barrier.  If you have time, you can volunteer with local groups that support refugees and other immigrants.  Search for the name of your town or neighboring locations and "immigrant" or "refugee" to find groups you might like to support.  Check community boards at places like the library to see what opportunities there are.  If you can find anything, start your own group.  You can also donate to local organizations if you don't have time to volunteer with them.

Changing your perspective

Educate yourself

This one never costs anything and you can spend as much time as you like doing it.  In addition, you can also use what you learn to help people understand what it means to be a refugee and how much they need help.  One of the best ways to make sure refugees can continue resettling in the US is to help people understand the refugee crisis.

Sources to learn about the worldwide refugee crisis
FAQ about refugee resettlement in the US
Resources to help children learn more
Stories about refugees

One other way to educate yourself that will take some time and money is to get certified as an ESL teacher.  Since language acquisition is one of the most necessary things for refugees to do, there are many opportunities as a certified ESL teacher.

Volunteer with a refugee resettlement agency

If you have the time and desire, this is one of the best things you can do .  There are resettlement agencies all over the US and all need support from their local communities, from sponsoring families to office volunteers to donation pickups.  You can volunteer as much or as little as you like.  You will likely need to get a background check to fill many volunteer needs.

Finding and working with an agency


There are so many places you can donate to.  This list might get you started. Note that this site believes all of these organizations are financially responsible but you should check them out to be sure you are comfortable with them.

Financial Donations

Advocate for refugees

This is another one that doesn't cost anything and is so very important.  It also doesn't take much time to advocate, or you can choose to spend more time.

Advocating for refugees

Other things you can do

If the suggestions above aren't for you but you still want to help, you might try looking at this list. Again, if you have more suggestions, please let me know.

Other ways to help

Be realistic

Make sure you don't overextend yourself.  There are tremendous needs within refugee communities but you can't fix everything yourself.  It's okay to set clear boundaries around what you are able to do, especially as you help people become self-sufficient.  You also might recruit others to help you.  Keeping a good balance will allow you to be a better support.

Finally, we're always looking for stories about people's experiences as refugees or working with refugees.  Send me an email if you have a story to share.