If you've felt disheartened, angry, helpless, or frustrated with the new administration's recent policies, it's time to get involved! Learning about refugee resettlement through volunteering, on a personal level, is a wonderful way to support refugees already living in your community. Check out a few opportunities of ways to get involved below. If you don't have time to volunteer, consider donating or using your voice to advocate for change (it sometimes only takes 1 min, and everyone has 1 minute to spare, right?). Do you have other suggestions? If so, comment below.
International Rescue Committee: I have volunteered and consulted for this organization in the past. They do fantastic work resettling refugees and have offices across the US- the staff and clients there are some of the best people I know. Consider reaching out to your local office to inquire about volunteering. For instance, in the Oakland, CA office there are many volunteers who help with taking refugee clients to doctors appointments, teaching them how to ride a bus, getting them set up with services or helping create a resume. It's a fun way to help a refugee's first experience in the US be a warm and welcoming one.
Jewish Family Services: I currently volunteer with this organization as a refugee family mentor. It's a great program and I love spending time with the family they've matched me with. It's a relatively low time commitment, usually 2 or 3 afternoons a month. We play games, make dinner (we had a shared Congolese- American Thanksgiving dinner last year), go to the park, see a movie, play basketball (I always lose) and just spend time together. The volunteer coordinator will match you with a family close to your home and of similar interests. I highly recommend this volunteer opportunity. If JFS doesn't have a location near you, I'd Google your nearest refugee resettlement organization and reach out to ask about a refugee mentor program- most organizations have something similar.
Refugee Transitions: If you live in the Bay Area, check out this organization. They're a small non-profit that serves high need, low income refugees & immigrants. I volunteered with their home based program for 3 years and loved all of the time I was able to spend with a Eritrean refugee family with who they partnered me. While we sometimes practiced English, we mainly spent time cooking, talking, dreaming, and exploring Oakland together.
UNHCR: They support refugees, globally, on the ground through offering shelter, education, and health services and much more. This is also a fantastic place to stay up to date about global refugee issues. For instance, this article, about a search and rescue team that has saved more than 33,000 refugees at sea brings me a sliver of hope in this difficult time. Read all their news updates here.
Refugees Welcome: This organization pairs renters/home owners who have an extra room in their home with a refugee who needs housing. It's a simple and powerful concept that I wish could be adopted in the US. So far, the program has taken hold in a handful of other countries.
Internal Rescue Committee : they need your help, now more than ever, to maintain their global services to refugees. We support their work so much so that our wedding registry provides an option to donate to the IRC.
There are many ways to share your voice with elected officials. Below are just a few resources that I've found helpful. Please comment with other options you recommend:
5calls: This website is awesome! You type in your zipcode and click on different topics that are important to you such as "reject the Muslim ban" or "stand up for immigrants" and the website gives you the names and phone numbers of your elected officials. They offer a useful script to guide your call.
ACLU action: The ACLU action page gives multiple opportunities to contact your senators about issues you care about. Besides standing up for refugee rights, there are other action opportunities that may speak to you. It's an easy email to your senators that they even populate with some suggested language.