How can I help refugees and immigrants in Portland?
I hear this question a lot. Portlanders especially feel a lot of compassion for what is happening in so many parts of the world and want to help. But other than donating money to organizations that work with refugees, what can we do to tangibly help?
As a new resident of Portland myself with many years based overseas doing community development, I’m naturally drawn to foreigners and am wary of the idea of just throwing money at a situation and hoping it gets better.
If you do want to send some money somewhere, there are many great groups out there doing good stuff. But ask yourself first if you prefer to help locally or internationally. Charity Navigator has been set up to help show which aid groups tend to be better run and have more percentage of their income go towards those that are being helped rather than towards salaries.
Another question to ask yourself is whether you prefer to work with a faith-based group or a purely secular aid group. There are also many other questions that can help you narrow down your focus. Do you want to focus on a particular part of the world you feel more concerned for? Do you prefer to provide medical help, if possible?
In the Portland area there are several aid groups on hand. Many of the groups listed below can not only use financial help, but volunteer assistance too.
Catholic Charities (local)
Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon (local)
Hear the Cry (international)
Lutheran Community Services (local)
Medical Teams International (international)
Refugee Care Collective (local) – sign up for their newsletter for opportunities
IRCO (Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization) – check out their volunteer page. After school program needs: RISE Brochure 2016-17 (and this is just one of 150 programs they have)
IRCO’s Africa house
IRCO’s Asian Family Center
Portland Meets Portland (local)
I’m a firm believer that spending time with immigrants and refugees is best done close to where you live. That’s not always possible, but with enough investigation I believe it is quite easy to manage throughout the Portland metro area. Spending time with “New Portlanders” is also a great way to hear real stories and make ongoing connections that could become some of the brightest spots of your lives.
Language Training is an ongoing way to help. There are many classes happening throughout the region. Local schools, churches, community centers and libraries are often the best places to find out what is happening and where. English speakers don’t need to have an English-teaching certificate or degree to make a huge difference in the lives of recent arrivals. Babysitters are also a welcome way to help for parents who are attending English classes.
Protests and marches are organized on a felt-needs basis. Facebook groups from your area already exist to announce when these will take place.
This website is looking for volunteer bridges who can highlight establishments that are run by New Portlanders. Putting money straight into the pockets of those who work hard to make a living is an extremely satisfying thing. We are always on the lookout for new reviews, photos, videos, etc. that share what you’ve found.
Yard signs can be put up to show that you support and welcome immigrants and refugees. A local place to check out is SignsofJustice.com. They can also create the trilingual sign “No matter where you’re from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor.“
Lutheran Community Services shows the following volunteer positions (as of 2/8/2017)
REFUGEE RESETTLEMENT CO-SPONSORSHIP
Serve on the “welcoming committee” for a newly arriving refugee family. Helping a refugee family settle into their new home is a rich and rewarding experience. For more information, please contact Stefani Bloch, 503-731-9525.
Broaden your own family network by making a refugee family a part of your own. Work closely with one specific refugee family to help them assimilate into their new community. For more information, please contact Stefani Bloch, 503-731-9525.
Help find housing, provide transportation and solicit donations for furniture and household donations to support new and existing refugee clients. This can be done on a regular schedule or on an “on call” basis. For more information, please contact Stefani Bloch, 503-731-9525.
SCHOOL ASSISTANCE FOR REFUGEE NEWCOMERS (SAFRN)
Volunteer tutors work with refugee students (grades K-12) who are attending public schools in Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington counties and have lived in the U.S. less than one year. Volunteers will spend 1.5 – 2 hours per week with their students, usually in the students’ homes, helping with English, homework, and learning about American culture. Volunteer training and support is provided. Help refugee youth, while learning about another culture and exploring your skills! For more information, please contact Faridah Haron, 503-731-9521.
Catholic Charities has multiple opportunities listed on their volunteer page.
Donated household items are able to be repurposed in the apartments of new arrivals. Other items of use include iPods, mobile phones, computers, vehicles, etc.
WHAT CAN I DO WITH A GROUP?
- pack welcome kits
- go to restaurants, grocery stories, bakeries, etc. that are run by or hire refugees
- collect and donate household items
- adopt a newly arrived family
- help drive people to appointments
- help host new arrivals at your home temporarily until housing is sorted
Faith-based books on the topic include the following:
- Christians at the Border: Immigration, the Church and the Bible by M. Daniel Carroll R
- Jesus was a Migrant by Dierdre Cornell
- Seeking Refuge: On the Shores of the Global Refugee Crisis by Bauman, Soerens and Smeir
- Strangers Next Door by J.D. Payne
- Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion and Truth in the Immigration Debate by Matthew Soerens and Jenny Hwang Yang
Other books include:
- The Middle of Everywhere: Helping Refugees Enter the American Community by Mary Pipher
- Underground America: Narratives of Undocumented Lives