Home for Refugees: Creating Partnerships to Welcome and Build Long-Term Resettlement Success
From its beginning in 2016 with one staff person and twelve volunteers, Home for Refugees has grown into an organization with nine staff members and over 200 volunteers all working to fulfill the mission of “empower[ing] refugees to sustain new homes, find new hope, and fully experience life” according to Executive Director, Minda Schweizer.
The job of carrying out the vision to help “every refugee … have a home that supports safety, freedom, and dignity” has become even more urgent in the past year.
Since the fall of Kabul, staff and volunteers have helped resettle 52 families. Each family is partnered with a team of five volunteers who accompany them on the journey for one year. “The initial task was daunting; it felt like a whole country was evacuating and relocating all at once,” according to Schweizer. She continues, “we are over the mountain top. Our work with the Afghan families who were evacuated from Kabul is winding down by the end of this summer. We could not have done this without the overwhelming response of churches and community groups. People really do want to help.”
As Home for Refugees gears up to work with an influx of families fleeing Ukraine, they need to learn about and implement a very different set of protocols. The Afghans were usually persons who had worked with the United States during the Afghan war. Most were in the process of applying for Special Immigration Status, a well-defined set of procedures that while often frustrating were clear. The usual problem was that people were not all the way through the process, so were made to wait a long time to leave a dangerous situation. Those caught in the system were sent to Qatar, then US military bases to wait for final clearance to enter the United States.
Their work with families fleeing Ukraine differs in several ways. Most Ukrainians who have left their country hope to return there in the future. The sheer numbers, the urgency of moving people away from border-states, and a back up in the immigration system caused by the loss of Immigration and Naturalization staff has resulted in a different approach. Ukrainians will not be following the official United Nations refugee process, but rather will be sponsored by church and community groups, in much the same way Vietnamese immigrants were in the 1970s. All will be thoroughly vetted prior to entering the Unites States.
At present there are five teams in various stages of working with families from Ukraine. Each team is securing a financial sponsor and a co-signer for an apartment lease along with others who will support the family with clothing, food, education and medical needs.
The agency expects to resettle 125 families from Ukraine, Afghanistan, and other countries over the next year and is presently forming partnership teams. Teams can be from one church, a synagogue, mosque, a group of faith communities, a group of friends, or a community group.
The next training is scheduled for Thursday, July 21st from 4:00-5:30 pm via Zoom.
All participants will learn the basics then be broken into two groups to learn the particulars of resettling according to the usual or the special Ukrainian protocols. A major difference is the amount of financial support that will need to be raised. For refugees entering under UN auspices, who receive a stipend, teams will need to raise $10,000. Teams supporting Ukrainian families will need to find a financial sponsor, someone willing to co-sign the apartment lease, and also raise $20,000.
Schweizer does not expect this work to cease as wars and genocides continue to rage across the globe. She expresses deep gratitude for all who have worked and will work to welcome our neighbors whether they be people of faith or no faith. God works through all who answer the call to give food to the hungry, a drink to the thirsty, cloth the naked, take care of the sick, and welcome the stranger.
To learn more about Home for Refugees visit https://www.homeforrefugeesusa.org