For the first time since the founding of their organization, the U.N. Refugee Agency reported more than 60 million forcibly displaced persons worldwide in 2015. Nearly 41 million of these individuals remained in their home country, but were forced from their homes by war, violence, or violation of their civil rights. The remaining 24.5 million were refugees, meaning they had to leave their country and resettle.
Sometimes, after spending a few minutes reading through the day’s news or watching political discourse on social media, I start to feel despair. Honestly, numbers like these are hard for me to comprehend. The need is so great, and I start to feel overwhelmed when I think about what I can do to help.
No matter how your political convictions play out in your life or how you feel about our new president, I think we can all agree that most of us here in the United States have never experienced the type of suffering that comes with being a refugee and that the right thing to do is to help if we are able. Knowing how to help and where your resources will be best used isn’t so clear. If you want to do what you can to aid refugees, but aren’t sure which charities are trustworthy or how you can best serve with your time, consider one of these practical ways you can make a difference.
Giving your money
When it comes to helping refugee families, cash is always going to be the most practical way to offer support. Humanitarian aid organizations around the world are working to meet refugees’ basic needs, like shelter, food, clothing, water, and medical care, but always need money to fund their work. Before you give, make sure you choose an organization that is well vetted and transparent about how they manage their finances. Consider one of these:
- Catholic Relief Services was founded in 1943 to offer relief to areas affected by World War II as well as aid to the refugees displaced by the conflict. Today, they continue that mission with the goal of helping each person they serve encounter their full human potential.
- The Preemptive Love Coalition is working in areas plagued with violence to support displaced families with medical care, emergency aid, and education and actively advocating for peace in conflict zones. This organization shares all of their finances on their website, giving peace of mind that money donated is well spent.
- The International Rescue Committee has been providing aid during humanitarian crises since their founding in 1933. In 2016 alone, they served 26 million people worldwide, many of whom were refugees.
Donating clothes and supplies
If you are struggling to make ends meet but still want to make donations that will aid refugees, consider donating clothing and household goods to families who have resettled in your area. When a family moves to a new country after fleeing their home, they are starting over from scratch. In most cities, there are organizations specifically focused on making that transition as easy as possible by connecting refugees with clothes for work and school, kitchenware, furniture, and more. Check your home for things you are no longer using. If they are still in good condition, find a refugee resettlement service in your area to find out if they are accepting donations. Not sure if an organization like this exists in your community? This directory of volunteer agencies is a great place to start.
Giving your time
Adjusting to a new life in a new country comes with countless challenges, but resettlement services have adopted models for making the transition as easy as possible. In most cities and towns where refugees are being resettled, an opportunity exists to give your time. In my city, the Jewish Vocational Services will connect you with refugees who need help getting to and from their new jobs and appointments, getting their kids ready to start school, learning to navigate the city, and learning English. Finding an organization in your area is easy when you visit the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants website (scroll to the bottom of the page).
No matter what kind of budget you’re on or how busy you are with work, any time or money you can give will be meaningful to the refugee who receives your gift.