Nine State Department-sponsored voluntary organizations (VOLAGs) oversee U.S. resettlement of refugees. In collaborative partnerships with us, those listed below have agreed to accept RPCVs who contact them, even as they struggle to maintain services in the current uncertain refugee policy climate.
Check their websites and contact one of their local affiliates near you to find out how you can become involved. Volunteer with refugees arriving now, or with some of the many who are already here and need continuing assistance for their first year in the U.S. or beyond. Put the cross-cultural skills you learned in the Peace Corps to work helping new refugee friends settle into life in the U.S.
Church World Service (CWS)
CWS has helped hundreds of thousands of refugees from around the globe since 1946, starting with those from Europe after World War II and continuing today with welcoming refugees from 30 countries, on every continent. CWS has partnered with the State Department in the operation of a Refugee Support Center for Africa in Nairobi, Kenya, which last year assisted 28,000 refugees to come to the United States. The Nairobi center serves as a hub for CWS field missions in sub-Saharan, Africa. Please consult their website for more details regarding the location of their field sites: www.cwsglobal.org
The Ethiopian Community Development Council (ECDC)
ECDC is a community-based organization established in 1983 to respond to the needs of a growing Ethiopian community in Washington, DC, and around the nation. It quickly became a multi-service provider with national and international reach. ECDC branch offices (3) and resettlement affiliates (13) support refugee resettlement, providing critical social services including translation, immigration counseling, youth leadership and life-skills training, English classes and employment services. Refer to ECDC’s website www.ecdcus.org for the location of branch offices and resettlement affiliates as well as details regarding possible volunteer activities.
Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM)
EMM began helping refugees and collaborating in this effort with other groups, such as Church World Service, in 1930. They have 30 affiliates in 22 states and also contract with the State Department to assist refugee resettlement in local communities. To help refugees achieve self-sufficiency as quickly as possible, they assist with health screening, learning English, developing employment skills, and enrolling children in school. For more details regarding EMM’s activities and affiliate locations, please refer to their website: episcopalmigrationministries.org Please note that EMM is currently not accepting additional volunteers.
HIAS is a global Jewish nonprofit that protects refugees whose lives are in danger for being who they are. Guided by their values and history, HIAS helps refugees rebuild their lives in safety and advocates to ensure that all displaced persons are treated with the dignity that they deserve. Since 1881, HIAS has assisted more than 4,500,000 people worldwide. HIAS has affiliates in 12 states including a total of 22 U.S. cities. Please view www.hias.org for their locations. To volunteer with HIAS, see https://www.hias.org/volunteer. HIAS has developed an extremely useful guide, “Refugee Resettlement in Partnership: A Guide for Community Volunteers and Institutions,” downloadable from their website at https://www.hias.org/refugee-resettlement-partnership.
International Rescue Committee (IRC)
IRC has 29 offices across the U.S. supporting nearly 10,000 refugees yearly to help them transition to new lives. Volunteers play an integral part in IRC refugee resettlement and are required to make a 3-6 month commitment. Individual opportunities include mentoring refugee families and individuals, assisting in developing jobs skills, tutoring refugee children, helping refugees prepare for a citizenship exam, and assisting refugees in learning basic financial concepts. IRC also welcomes volunteer teams (3-30) for other group activities, such as organizing donations; preparing welcome packages, back to school kits, and winter care kits; and organizing drives for basic supplies. Please refer to their website: www.rescue.org
Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS)
Since 1939, LIRS has championed refugees and migrants around the world, helping over 500,000 refugees build new lives in the U.S. Its national network of service partners and volunteers connects refugees with the basics they need for safety and well-being while helping them integrate into a new environment. Please refer to http://lirs.org/our-work/service-partners/refugee-resettlement-partners for the location of these agencies. LIRS promotes job-readiness skills, English language training, and cultural orientation, and provides refugees with legal services for resettlement in a new country. LIRS continues to engage Congress, the Administration and Lutheran leaders to shape the critical policies and legislation impacting the lives of migrants and refugees. For more details regarding volunteer opportunities with LIRS link to LIRS volunteer page on their website: www.lirs.org
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)
USCCB has been providing services to vulnerable and marginalized populations of migrants and refugees for more than a century. In 1965 the office of Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) was created within the United States Catholic Conference to direct refugee resettlement activities. Since 1975, MRS has coordinated the resettlement of more than 800,000 refugees (more than a quarter of all refugees arriving in the U.S. each year) through over 100 affiliate dioceses.
In 1999, MRS expanded its scope to include unaccompanied children and other vulnerable populations, offering them advocacy, communications, education, and services. MRS welcomes and depends on volunteers and resources from parishes and the larger community to accomplish the Church’s mission. Visit www.usccb.org for more details about their resettlement activities and locations of USCCB-MRS Diocesan Resettlement Offices and Unaccompanied Refugee Minors.
U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI)
USCRI has been welcoming and settling refugees since 1911 and was founded to provide the support services that these newcomers so desperately need to transition to a new life. Refer to their website: www.refugees.org USCRI has 97 partner agencies. Volunteer opportunities include teaching/tutoring ESL, job skills and life skills; mentoring new families; setting up new homes; accompanying clients to appointments; and partnering with local USCRI sites as landlords, employers, and community advocates. Currently, it specifically welcomes RPCVs’ refugee resettlement support in the following locations: Philadelphia, PA: Northern Area Companies; Buffalo, NY: International Institute of Buffalo; Cleveland, OH: USCRI Ohio; and Twin Falls, ID: College of Southern Idaho Refugee Program.