Jake was contacted a little over a month ago as someone who may be able to contribute help to this organization’s branch in Des Moines: U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (UCRI). The director of the Des Moines branch happened to be in church the day that Jake gave the sermon during a service in Knoxville last August. Valerie, the director, has faced challenge after challenge in finding someone to partner with her organization to assist refugees as they begin their new lives in Des Moines. Recently she decided to get in touch with Jake and see if he would be interested in helping her organization. I believe the tangible needs of this organization can EASILY be met by all of you blog readers out there! I will get to that in a minute. First let me give you a little background on this organization….
What is a Refugee?
A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Refugees differ from other immigrants in that they do not have the choice to remain in their home country. Refugees flee their countries to save their lives. They run from war and persecution, often losing beloved family members along the way. Many refugees then spend years and sometimes decades in substandard refugee camps. Less than one percent of all refugees get the chance to leave a camp and resettle in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, or other countries that resettle refugees. (Source: http://www.refugees.org/about-us/where-we-work/uscri-des-moines/)
LESS THAN 1%. It’s literally like winning the lottery. Refugees living in camps in various countries can go to their Embassy and fill out a series of refugee service paperwork in which they can apply for a visa to the United States. Then it becomes a lottery process as to who is granted visas. Literally the luck of the draw so to say.
What is Refugee Resettlement?
Each year, Americans welcome refugees to the United States. The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement partner with agencies like USCRI Des Moines to assist refugees through the resettlement process. When a refugee arrives in America, he or she usually comes with little more than the clothes on his or her back. Organizations like USCRI Des Moines meet refugees at the airport and help them to begin building new lives. (Source: http://www.refugees.org/about-us/where-we-work/uscri-des-moines/)
USCRI receives only an extremely small allotment of money from the government (Office of Refugee Resettlement – ORR) to help these refugees get on their feet and become self-sufficient. Because of this USCRI has to be extremely wise in how this money is spent. AND HERE IS WHERE YOU COME IN! The less money USCRI spends on household items, the more they can spend on finding the families vehicles, housing, ESL programs, etc. Currently USCRI is in desperate need of household donations and also for volunteers from the community as refugees have already started arriving just this week. Between now and September USCRI is going to be helping approximately 110 refugees resettle in Des Moines (from Zimbabwe, Burma, & Iraq). Below is a list of the items needed that must be in the homes once the refugees arrive. As you do your spring cleaning this year, PLEASE consider USCRI as a possible donation site for old furniture, clothing, and other household items. Donations can be dropped off at Jake’s gym in Ankeny starting today (3305 SE Deleware). Drop-off times are Monday through Thursday 4pm-9:30pm, or if you need to drop off at a different time get in touch with Jake to arrange this (firstname.lastname@example.org). There will be large signs directing you to the storage/drop off area once you enter the main door. USCRI will also pick up any donations that you cannot bring in! Here is the list of items needed, and volunteer information is outlined below:
-Mattresses (twin, double)
-Dressers, set of drawers, shelves, or other unit appropriate for storage of clothing
-Couches or equivalent seating
-Tableware (forks, knifes, spoons)
-Dishes (plates, bowls, cups)
-Pots & pans (sauce pans, frying pans, baking dishes)
-Kitchen utensils (spatulas, wooden spoons, knifes, serving utensils, etc.)
Linens & Other Household Items
-Bed sheets and blankets
-Pillows and pillowcases
-Paper, pens and pencils
-Sponges, cleaning rags, and/or paper towels
-Ready to eat food
Come on, let’s start knocking out these items so that Valerie and USCRI Des Moines can use their government money allotment for things greater than household items!!!!!!!! Let’s get Jake’s gym packed to the brim!!!
USCRI Des Moines is also in desperate need of manpower - people willing to serve their TIME and volunteer! Valerie has had a very difficult time finding people who are willing to help refugees. As families pour in USCRI needs volunteers to help set up apartments, aid in transportation, and mentoring these families as they acclimate to their new environment and life. An interest in volunteering does not require a commitment ahead of time. Rather, your name will be placed on an email list and notification emails will be sent out for the needs as they arise. As a volunteer you will also receive a newsletter with updates and an opportunity to attend an orientation for this specific volunteer work. If you are interested in volunteering email Valerie at email@example.com and you will be added to the volunteer email list.
Eventually Jake and I hope to coordinate with Valerie to start an Adopt-A-Refugee program of sorts. In this way refugee families could be ‘adopted’ by those in our community in hopes of creating a support system for them as they try to begin their new lives. Families could help by giving the refugees rides to events, having them over for dinner, getting them plugged into Des Moines, and basically just being there for these families and individuals as needed. For now we just really want to help Valerie by collecting these household items and getting the word out that volunteers are needed! Thanks everyone!!!!!!!!!