At every turn, it seems like people around the globe are saying, “Not my problem.” Countries around Syria are erecting fences and even shooting refugees who try to cross.
Churches and small groups around the country are mobilizing into Good Neighbor Teams to serve newly arriving refugee families for a period of six to 12 months—supplying material needs like food, clothing, and transportation, and tangible services like school registration, community orientation, job preparation and English tutoring.
Meet, Johnny, one of thousands of our volunteers across the globe choosing courage and generosity by welcoming new families to the U.S. Hear Johnny’s story and why he is committed to serving refugee families. “It is incumbent on Christians to love God and love others.” - Johnny
Simple acts of kindness can make all the difference in the world. World Relief staff and volunteers help refugees like this family settle in the US throughout the year – bringing hope and reassurance in times of uncertainty.
Women and children comprise three-quarters of the refugee population and they are a particularly vulnerable group with unique needs. Women and girls have limited access to social protection and services and are at risk for various prevalent forms of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV)
With the arrival of Thanksgiving, World Relief is excited to celebrate in thankfulness the thousands of volunteers and hundreds of churches volunteering time and resources to assist with refugee resettlement in the United States. Over the past 35 years, World Relief’s U.S. offices have resettled over 250,000 refugees from more than 80 nations. For every office, volunteers play an invaluable role in serving newly arrived refugees by providing mentorship, friendship and general assistance with transportation and navigating life in their new communities.
The following testimonials are taken from volunteers at World Relief’s Sacramento office, which has been resettling refugees since 1982. While powerful, these are just a few of many stories about the mutual transformation occurring in Refugee Resettlement across the country.
Apartment Setup Volunteer - What can I say about the rewarding experience of working with World Relief and the refugee program? It started with nothing more than volunteering to deliver a meal to whomever the church said needed one. It has since grown into collecting and sorting donated household items and buying, as wisely as possible, whatever else is needed, along with setting up apartments and bringing the incoming families to these apartments. Although the above actions are exciting and enjoyable for me, the area of volunteering I look forward to the most is ongoing relationships with the new families. This Includes taking them to appointments, grocery shopping and doing anything I can to make them feel welcomed and loved in their new home. I have made several mistakes in all of these opportunities and yet the graciousness and thankfulness of the families keeps me motivated to continue serving them. What an easy way for us to share God's love and follow His command to go and make disciples. We don't have to go to the 'outermost regions' as some are called to do. Instead God has brought them to us. Thank you World Relief for your ministry.
“Road Runner” (Driver) Volunteer - With World Relief, I have been pleased to have the opportunity to assist refugees with some of their initial needs upon their arrival in Sacramento. The experience with World Relief has impressed upon me the vulnerability of these newcomers and the importance to them of volunteers and others that help them. From the comments of several of the refugees I've met, transportation is one of the challenges they face in Sacramento, as they don't initially have their own cars and find public transportation, including school buses, to be limited.”
ESL Instructor - When a beginning ESL student first walks into my classroom, they can usually tell me their name, but not spell it. Beyond that, their English may consist of some common nouns and verbs strung together with no connector words to give grammatical sense to the sentence. As the teacher, that first day of Beginning ESL is a challenge. I don't know anything about my students. They don't know anything about me. The only way to get there, save for Google Translate, is by learning English. One of the most exciting moments in my classroom was a few weeks into our semester when I looked at the board and saw, not words or pictures, but twenty sentences that the students wrote themselves with their peers. As they wrote, they debated over the grammar and spelling and content of what they wanted to say and broke into fits of laughter when someone made a funny comment or mistake. I was overwhelmed when I realized that in only a few short weeks, we had moved from only communicating in smiles and hand gestures and being isolated from one another to talking to each other about our families, hobbies, clothes, likes and dislikes, and home countries. The students had built relationships with people from other cultures who didn’t speak their languages and had taught me about their own cultures and lives. Seeing this transformation helped to underscore the reason I teach them English. It is not about correct grammar or spelling, though those are important. It is about building relationships.
World Relief is thankful and proud to work alongside the empowered Body of Christ and thousands of volunteers across the United States as we join hands to serve vulnerable, newly-arrived refugees!
“We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3
For over 6 years, Claudia has been volunteering with World Relief in the Tri-Cities area in Washington. She mentors refugees from Burma, Columbia and Somalia. Many of the younger refugees who have lost their own mothers or may never see them again know call her “Mama Claudia.”Here, Claudia shares why she has chosen to stand with refugees:
“I had been praying about a way to volunteer that would be meaningful. One night, at a church meeting, a World Relief staff person stood up to speak about refugees. As soon as she stood up, I knew that’s what I was supposed to do. I didn’t really have many cross-cultural experiences to draw from, other than a time in the 1970’s when I was part of a church that helped host a Vietnamese family or when I worked with a literacy project in California. But I’ve always been one to look out for the less-fortunate. Even in high school, I remember that I always seemed to have more than my friends did and I wanted to give to them.
Many refugees have gone through so much tragedy and have suffered a lot of trauma just to get here. When they tell you the story of how their government stole their land and killed their family or when they tell you how they used to live, cooking, cleaning and sleeping all in a shack that is the size of my dining room, it reminds me again how fortunate I am. I am blessed with more than I need.
I’ve learned a lot from the refugees, about myself and about how our cultures are so different. One time recently, I was upset at a landlord about a situation in a young Burmese couple’s apartment, and I wanted to march over to that office and get it resolved. My Burmese friend, who is much more gentle and kind than I, stopped me and said, “no, I’ll take care of it. It’s ok. I can do it.”
Once I mentioned to my Somali friends that I had a headache, and after that, each Somali kept taking turns checking on me to see if I was ok. I’m accepted by them, and they appreciate me and the help I can give them. They often confide in me about problems or questions they have about American culture. I’ve had many very personal conversations with them, and they sometimes seem much more open than we are in our culture.
It’s so funny to go out in public and have these Somali people call me their mama. When I help them with appointments, the receptionist will ask what my relationship is to the group of Somalis standing there with me. We stop, look at each other, and just smile. I usually end up saying, ‘well, I’m their American mother.’ No one really asks questions after that.”