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.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Episcopal Migration Ministries

EMM works with a wide variety of organizations throughout the US to resettle refugees.  Some of these organizations are also affiliated with other resettlement agencies.

Here's a map where can look them up.

Or work from this list if you'd prefer.

Arizona- Refugee Focus in Phoenix and Tuscson

California- Interfaith Refugee & Immigration Service in Los Angeles

Colorado- Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains in Denver

Connecticut- Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services in New Haven

Florida- Lutheran Social Services of NE Florida in Jacksonville and Episcopal Migration Ministries-Miami

Georgia- New American Pathways in Atlanta

Idaho- Agency for New Americans in Boise

Illinois- Refugee One in Chicago

Indiana- Exodus Refugee/Immigration, Inc. in Indianapolis

Kansas- Episcopal Wichita Area Refugee Ministry

Kentucky- Kentucky Refugee Ministries in Lexington and Louisville

Massachusetts- Ascentria Care Alliance in Worcester

Michigan- Samaritas in Troy and Grand Rapids

Minnesota- Minnesota Council of Churches Refugee Services in Minneapolis

New York-  Interfaith Works in Syracuse and Journey's End Refugee Services in Buffalo

North Carolina- Interfaith Refugee Ministry in Wilmington and New Bern

North Dakota- Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota in Fargo

Ohio- Community Refugee and Immigration Services in Columbus

Tennessee- Bridge Refugee Services in Knoxville and Chattanooga

Texas- Refugee Services of Texas in Austin and Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston

Washington- Refugee Resettlement Office  in Seattle

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Financial Donations

This post is to give you some suggestions of places to donate if you want to support refugee resettlement in the US.

A very simple and effective way to support refugee resettlement is to donate to one of the resettlement agencies. Many are religiously-affiliated but not all (USCRI and IRC are not). All of of these are official resettlement agencies and are reliable to donate to. All are passionate about helping refugees but the larger agencies are generally able to do more advocacy.

Another great option is IRIS in Connecticut who is organizing the community sponsorship model in that state.

There are also many, many other groups that support refugees and immigrants all over the US.  It's a great idea to find a local group that you can donate to.

There are also legal groups to donate to.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Political Advocacy for Refugees

With the new and uncertain political climate in the US, it is more important than ever to make your voice heard in support of refugee resettlement in the US.  No matter where you live, you can take part in this.  Here are some things you can do.

First, make sure any refugees and immigrants in your area know that you want them there.  Even a smile makes a big difference.

Then start with your friends and community.  Kindly correct misinformation about refugees and try to get the facts out about refugee resettlement.

Work locally.  Contact your city council members and tell them you welcome refugees in your town.  Call them, talk to them at a city council meeting, send a letter.  Encourage like-minded friends to do the same.  You can make a difference locally.

Contact your state and Congressional representatives, again with a phone call or a letter rather than an email.  Tell them your state needs to welcome refugees. Tell them the US needs to welcome refugees.

Support refugee resettlement agencies in their political advocacy.  I am contacting all of the agencies right now to learn the best ways to help and I will update this post as I learn more.

To start, World Relief and LIRS have detailed pages about their advocacy.

Finally, you can always donate to the different refugee resettlement agencies.  All of them need help, but they do have different emphases and different backgrounds.  All welcome support from anyone.  You can find links to all of the agencies here.

How to Work with an Agency

The best way to find refugees to help in your area is to search for the name of your city plus "refugee resettlement."

There are 9 official refugee resettlement agencies working in the US.

These agencies work in different areas around the country and all welcome refugees.  Volunteering with an agency is usually the best way to help refugees in your community because they can coordinate efforts and have a wide variety of opportunities with different time commitments.  You will probably need to get a background check to work with any agency.  No matter the religious affiliation of the agency, anyone is welcome to volunteer with them.

Here are some of the things you might be able to do:

  • Airport pickups
  • Host a welcome dinner
  • Driving to appointments
  • Office work
  • Sorting donations
  • Reviewing volunteer applications
  • Translation
  • Mentor a family
  • Help with resumes and job searches
  • Teaching English
  • Citizenship mentoring
  • Pro bono legal help
  • Tutoring or mentoring children
  • Loading, delivering, and unloading donations
  • Cleaning and setting up apartments
  • Helping with paperwork
  • Greeters
  • Helping with meals
  • Managing donations
  • ESL conversation partner
  • Fundraising
  • Donation drives for furniture, clothes, or supplies
  • Donate money