Author: Kristina DeVesty, Guest Blogger
When a refugee family arrives in the United States, they are often fleeing violence, unrest, and persecution. For centuries, America has been a safe haven for those in need. However, the safety of a place comes with the uncertainty of a new country and a new culture. Where will they live? How will they get from place to place? Will their skills and profession from their home country translate to America? How does American money work?
The challenges and the paperwork can seem overwhelming, and the window to assimilate is short. Thankfully, there are national resources and organizations like Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area that work tirelessly to ensure that questions are answered and needs addressed.
While the list of organizations serving refugee and resettled families is long, there is still a great need for help and support. Each of the organizations listed below plays a role in helping our refugee neighbors, and many can use some form of assistance to serve more effectively: from volunteer hours to the donations of goods, services, or funds.
Simply put, for every need there is an opportunity to get involved.
If you have a desire to serve, peruse the list below to find an opportunity to put your skills and your heart to work for others. If you know a refugee or resettled family in need, the services below can certainly help.
General Guides and Educational Materials
- The Cultural Orientation Resource Center has guides to transitioning to the United States in ten languages. The guides cover everything from healthcare to various American customs. The guides also include goal setting charts, comprehension quizzes, and infographics and illustrations to aid learning.
- The Office of Refugee Resettlement notes that refugees are often at greater risk than the general public during emergency situations due to a lack of exposure to the way the United States handles various natural disasters and other emergencies. They have created an Emergency Preparedness Booklet in fourteen languages; if a particular language is not represented, just contact the office and one will be made.
- WMATA created a Visitor’s Kit in seven languages that serves as a handy guide for refugees relying on public transportation. The kit includes bus guides, station information, basic rules and regulations, etc.
- LSS/NCA matches refugees with Job Developers to help prepare them for local career placements. They also offer training for both employees and potential employers. If you have a company that is interested in supporting the community by employing a refugee, you can click here for more information.
- Higher Advantage is a LIRS program that offers online training modules for career readiness, re-certification assistance for foreign-trained professionals, and downloadable job preparation resources.
- S. Citizenship and Immigration services has developed an online tutorial with a high-level overview of how to start an entrepreneurial endeavor as an immigrant in the United States.
- Catholic Charities Refugee Center offers ESL classes, workshops for job readiness, assistance in the job search process, training in building maintenance or green construction, and even parenting classes, all of which are detailed here.
- The Catholic Charities Diocese of Arlington provides resume building, interview practice, and even job-related transportation assistance to any refugees living in Northern Virginia for less than five years. They have five site locations throughout NOVA.
- Dress for Success provides professional wear and job training for women in the DC area.
Medical and Psychological Services
- TASSC is a DMV-based charity that provides psychological services, among other opportunities, for torture survivors. After arriving in the United States, survivors may have few culturally-sensitive resources available to them – TASSC offers everything from individual therapy to yoga sessions to help individuals heal appropriately.
- The Catholic Charities Health Care Network connects low-income and un-insured patients with specialized, pro bono health services. They also have medical clinics in DC and MD for non-emergencies.
- Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center offers free pregnancy testing, childbirth classes, maternity clothes, and baby clothing and supplies for those in need.
- The HIAS archives, dating back to 1909, can be accessed and searched for a fee of $30. For families that may have relatives whom immigrated or relocated to the United States, these records may prove useful for general knowledge or court proceedings.
- The USCRI Headquarters in Arlington, VA has an Immigrant Children’s Legal Program. Immigrant or unaccompanied children who are facing legal troubles or deportation can be recommended for pro bono services via this form.
- Kids In Need of Defense (KIND) also offers their services to immigrant and refugee children facing deportation and ensures that “no child stands in court alone.”
- Human Rights First offers pro bono legal services to asylum seekers in the greater Washington, D.C. area who cannot otherwise find good legal protection. To learn who is eligible and how to request help, visit this page on their website.
- The GW Law Immigration Clinic deals specifically with immigration, temporary protection status, and criminal cases for those needing assistance in Arlington County.
- Just Neighbors helps individuals with legal matters, whether it is gaining the right to work or getting protection from domestic violence. Their FAQ page is particularly helpful in determining what assistance they can provide.
- LSS/NCA provides basic needs for families upon arrival; interested groups and individuals can assemble welcome kits or purchase from an online “wish list” here.
- The Capital Area Food Bank search offers an incredibly comprehensive catalog for family resources. Zip code searches connect individuals and families with needed materials (everything from baby supplies to home goods) and a list of nearby organizations offering assistance. While not refugee-specific, the search can be a useful tool and a place to begin.
- The ACCA in Annandale, VA delivers donated furniture to families in need within the Annandale, Culmore, and Bailey’s Crossroad areas. They also have emergency food and financial aid available.
- The African Immigrant and Refugee organization offers services ranging from a “Catching Up Program” for children who were displaced to adult job-related workshops.
- CARECEN was founded to protect the rights of refugees arriving from conflict areas in the 80s. Today they provide services for immigrants and refugees from Central America.
- The Ethiopian Community Development Council has grant and resettling programs for refugees.
Permanent Resident and Citizenship Materials
- The US government has an online system where individuals can check their paperwork status, whether it is citizenship-related or a work visa.
- The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration office has a helpful two page PDF that explains the path to permanent residency. The office also has a page of materials for the naturalization test, including flashcards and interactive practice.
- HIAS has a study guide for the US citizens test in seven languages, as well as videos (with subtitled translations) explaining the process, what documents are needed, and what information to review.
- The Catholic Legal Immigration Network offers a citizenship toolkit that fully details the citizenship process, paperwork, and civic participation.
And of course, LSS/NCA needs your help in welcoming refugee families from mentoring a new neighbor about their community to collecting toiletries for incoming families. Your support offers deep and meaningful comfort to each new beginning. Join us today!