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10 Ways You can Help Refugees in the Puget Sound Now

Now more than ever, refugee families such as Hussein, Sabeeha, and their six children need to feel they are welcomed and valued as they work to rebuild their lives and contribute to our shared community. Below are a few ways you can help refugees and other vulnerable immigrants in the Puget Sound region right now

1. DonateThe presidential administration recently lowered the number of refugees allowed to resettle in the U.S. by more than half. This decision strips away funding for refugee resettlement infrastructure, meaning the loss of experienced staff and the deterioration of vital services for refugees in the Seattle area. Your investment today will help preserve vital services for more than 1,000 refugees from 28 countries who arrived to the Seattle area in the last year. A gift of $54 provides one week of English class or one month of transportation costs for a newly arrived refugee. 

2. Advocate: If you can vote (or even write) in English, you have what many refugees and immigrants lack. Speak on their behalf. Call your senators and representatives & tell them your community welcomes refugees. Visit our advocacy page to learn how.

3. Host a House Party for Refugees: We invite you to become an ally of refugees and other vulnerable immigrants who are new to our community. Throwing a house party for refugees is a way for you to invite your friends, family, and coworkers to empower refugees here in Western Washington.

4. Educate: With knowledge about refugees and the resettlement process, you can raise awareness or dispel misunderstandings about refugees among your family, friends, and the broader community. Start a conversation or post on social media anytime you see an opportunity to give accurate information. Below are some resources to help you.

5. Spread the Word: Stay connected by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, and checking out our Instagram page. #SeattleWelcomesRefugees #WeWelcomeRefugees #RefugeesWelcome

6. Donation Drive: There are many specific needs our newly arrived refugee families have. Especially in need right now are car seats and larger sized diapers. Check out our Amazon gift registry to ship needed items directly to our office.

7. Employ a Refugee: At World Relief Seattle, we prepare refugees for employment and self-sufficiency in the United States. Refugees come to the United States with a wide range of backgrounds and experiences. In addition to having diverse skills, all refugees are qualified, authorized, and reliable. We want to partner with you to support your business growth. You can save thousands of dollars in marketing and temp agency bills by choosing World Relief Seattle to provide you with excellent employees. Contact a World Relief employment specialist about hiring refugees.

8. Volunteer: There are many ways to join World Relief Seattle in welcoming the stranger and building mutually transformative relationships.Visit our volunteer page to learn about the different ways to get involved. The outpouring of interest from the community in volunteering with us has been encouraging. We are responding to these inquiries as quickly as possible and appreciate your patience as we respond to everyone. Know there are some limitations to how many volunteers we can train at this time.

9. Connect World Relief to Affordable Housing Options: One of the immediate barriers to newly arrived refugees is the high cost of housing in the region. We greatly appreciate information on, or connections to, local affordable housing options such as apartments, homes, or mother-in-law units. Invest in the financial future of a refugee family by considering renting your space at an affordable rate. Send us an email if you have any leads.

10. Love your friends, neighbors, and coworkers who are refugees.  They are likely feeling afraid right now and unsure of their future. They may even have relatives overseas that have been affected by this policy change.  Visit them and ask them how they are doing.  Reassure them that you love and care about them. You can also go to visit an East African market or an Iraqi restaurant.  As you buy something from the shop, talk with the people there and listen to them.  Let them know that you are happy that they are fellow Americans.

To learn more about any of these ideas, email us at volunteerseattle@wr.org or give us a call at 253-277-1121

Since 1979, World Relief Seattle has partnered with the U.S. government and the local community to welcome people fleeing violence and persecution, most of whom are women and children. As we witness the greatest displacement of people the world has known, this is a critical moment to stand with refugees.

Governmental policy may change, but our commitment to stand with refugees remains firm. Below are a few ways you can help refugees and other vulnerable immigrants in the Puget Sound region right now

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12 Days of Christmas Gifts

This year for the Christmas season, World Relief Seattle is inviting you to participate again in our annual 12 Days of Christmas Gifts. Each day between the 1st and the 12th, we will be collecting a different item that will be given directly to new refugee families.  These items range from Soccer Balls to Laptops and they will go a long way in making Seattle feel not just like another place families have fled to, but that this is now home and they are loved and welcomed by the local community here.

Soccer Balls and Coloring Books: Each year for our Refugee Christmas Party, World Relief Seattle gives away around 150 soccer balls to refugee youth who have arrived to Seattle in the last year.  We will also be giving coloring books and coloring supplies as well.
Soccer
Twin Sheet and Comforter Set: As the weather gets colder, we are asking for twin bedding.  Twin mattresses, box springs, bed frames, blankets and sheets are one of our largest needs each year.
Sheets
Rice Cookers: Rice is the staple food for more than 1.6 Billion people around the world particularly in Asia, Latin America, parts of Africa and the Middle East where many of our refugee friends are arriving from.  A high quality rice cooker can free parents up to spend more time with their children rather than spending time over a stove.
Rice Cooker

Cookware Set: A new set of pots and pans will welcome families into their new kitchen as they prepare meals that are nourishing and familiar.

Pots
Diapers…Size 3 and 4:  A new baby brings joy and happiness to a family and a lot of new expenses too.  When we sit down with families and go over monthly budgets, diapers always pop up as a huge expense that parents worry how to afford.
Diapers
Bed Frames:  We admit it.  There is nothing very exciting about twin bed frames.  But these are some of the hardest things for us to find in large quantities at an affordable price for families.  
Bed Frame
Baby Strollers:  Kids grow quickly and just like with the diapers, we have two different sizes of baby strollers on the registry.  With most of the items on the list we also take the gently used version and if you have an old stroller that you would like to donate to a family please contact our donations team at seattleGIK@wr.org or call (253) 277-1121 x233.
Stroller
Microwaves:  The apartments that families first move into have most modern amenities like a refrigerator, an oven and a stove, but they don’t come with microwaves.  A microwave isn’t a necessity, but it sure helps when you want to heat up some injera for an after school snack.
Microwave
Vacuums:  Keeping a home clean is a large part in making a new apartment feel safe and warm.  A vacuum is an essential piece of equipment and common ask for our donations team to find for new families.
Vaccum
Infant and Child Car Seats:  Car seats are a necessary part of modern life and the transportation of newborns and young children.  They are also to put it mildly, very expensive.  Like diapers, strollers and clothing kids also grow out of them very quickly, which is whey we have added a few different sizes to our wish list.
Car Seat Big
Pack and Play: A pack and play helps new parents watch over their young children in a safe space.  We know of several refugee mothers who are expecting in the coming weeks and months.  Please purchase this item with the matching mattress and sheet sold separately.
Pack and Play
Laptops:  A computer goes a long way in helping someone become self-sufficient here in the U.S. Kids can use it to do homework. Parents can use it to look for employment.  The whole family can use it to communicate with relatives back in their home country.
laptop
We will be using an Amazon baby registry where you can purchase the items and have them shipped directly to our office.  If you already have a gently used version of the same item we are more than happy to accept those as well via our regular donations team which can be reached at seattleGIK@wr.org or by calling (253) 277-1121 x233.  A full list of all the household goods we furnish a home with can be found here.

The First Few Steps in America

“But,” Masoud paused, “I have you.”

Iran

In reflecting on the challenges that he faced when he came to the United States, Masoud teared up as he remembered the help that World Relief provided for him in his first year of living in America. He had come to the United States alone, with no connections in his new community. Stepping off of the plane, he wasn’t sure what to expect.

But he was not alone.

His caseworker walked him through his first few months in the United States by helping him learn where to buy food, ride the bus, and get a bank account. His English teacher and classmates helped him slowly and consistently build his English understanding and vocabulary. And the World Relief employment team helped him to prepare for and find his first job with a local employer partner.

In less than three months in the United States, Masoud had learned about important community systems, how to navigate public transportation, and was working fulltime and paying for all of his expenses himself.

Over the months his job began to wear on him – he was allergic to the chemicals inside of the warehouse and the 12 hours shifts were grueling.

Masoud came back to the World relief employment team to see if he could get help finding a job upgrade. The employment team could see that Masoud was needing a change, and through another employment program, they were able to help him begin the search for a new job.  After passing a three-day working interview at a bakery production job, he was hired for his second job in the United States seven months after he arrived.

Nearly nine months later, Masoud is much happier in his second job – the shifts can still be difficult, but he has no allergies and the wage is higher. He attends an intensive English class on Saturdays. He says that his life is slowly getting better.Iran 3

As we spoke about his first year in the United States, he said that he couldn’t do anything by himself when he first arrived, and that World Relief staff supported him and pushed him to take steps in his new life.

In the future, Masoud plans to study to become and engineer once again (he has his bachelor’s in engineering and experience as a civil engineer in his native Iran).

In the meantime, he concluded our conversation by telling me that he wants to start volunteering on his days off. When I told him he could volunteer with World Relief, helping to set up furniture and items in new apartments, he told me he was interested.

That’s the beauty of World Relief – newly-arrived refugees who have settled into life in America with a little help in the beginning, turn around to become that same help to newcomers who are arriving now.

Thank you, Masoud, for sharing your story!

Iran 2

Married for Good

This is Ali.
She is a wife and a mom, and she finds great joy in capturing the beauty of the world through her photography. She particularly loves capturing the beauty of people in love as they celebrate engagement, weddings, and marriage.
She also has involved herself in the refugee journey in a very unique way, born from a deep belief in the connecting power of love. “I am convinced that marriages are about connecting to something greater than ourselves,” Ali shares, “And if we want our marriages to not only last but thrive, we need to connect with the love in the world. As my incredibly wise husband often says, marriage doesn’t happen in a vacuum. “
As Ali watched the most recent refugee crisis unfold, she knew that she wanted to do more with her business and with the couples she works with. Her response: For each wedding shoot, Ali Hormann Photography will donate the money needed to outfit a kitchen for a refugee family. 

“I thought since each [newlywed] couple gets to register for kitchen supplies, it be only fitting that their love make it possible for other to eat and cook and have time together”

Ali is looking forward to encouraging her clients to do more with their wedding budgets and their big dreams.  “I have long believed that the kind of self-sacrificial love that marriage entails is exactly the kind of love that will change the world,” Ali writes on her blog, “At the end of the day, if all you walk away from your wedding day with are some lovely images I have failed you.  I want all my couples to know that their marriage makes a difference and that good marriages are the difference the world needs.”
People, businesses, congregations, and community groups have joined in the life-changing work of World Relief Seattle in many creative ways. We are looking forward to being able to bless many new refugee families this year on behalf of Ali Hormann Photography, the couples she photographs, and #MarriedForGood.

Resolutions and Refugees

Ten…
Nine…
Eight…
Seven…
Six…

New Year’s Eve is punctuated with fireworks.

New Year’s Eve is for reflection on a year ending.

New Year’s Eve is filled with resolutions for the days ahead.

The task of welcoming refugees and newcomers that we get to do here at World Relief Seattle doesn’t stop at midnight.  2015 saw the worst refugee crisis since WWII, and according to the UNHCR’s latest figures, it is getting worse.

As World Relief International responds to the crisis on the ground in countries throughout the Middle East, we in Seattle welcomed one of the first of what will be many families to arrive to Western Washington from Syria.  Listen to their arrival story here from KUOW.

As governors across the country attempted to close their states to vulnerable families seeking refuge in 2015, our governor stated that “Washington will continue to be a state that welcomes those seeking refuge from persecution, regardless of where they come from or the religion they practice…” just as it has for tens of thousands of Vietnamese, Ukrainians and Somalis over the previous decades.

Looking forward into 2016, we are hopeful for the families who are waiting to come to Seattle right now.  We are expecting nearly 800 people to arrive this coming year.  We know that some of those individuals who will arrive are people who put their lives on the line to support U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.  We know that some children who will arrive were born and raised in refugee camps.  They will be able to attend area schools where they will flourish as Bulldogs, Raiders, and Royals.

Several families welcomed new additions in the month of December alone.  Our volunteers and caseworker are looking forward to Midnight texts with pictures of newborns in the year to come.  The work we do, the work that we invite local churches, businesses, and the whole community into is about seeing lives transformed.

Will you advocate for refugees?
Will you give to refugees?
Will your company hire refugees?
Will you welcome refugees?

These things we hope for in the new year will take more than a moment.  They will take hard work and commitment.  They will take patience and perseverance on behalf or our staff, volunteers and participants.  We invite you to join us in this transformational work in 2016.

Five…
Four…
Three…
Two…
One…

12 Days of Christmas Giving

This year for the Christmas season, World Relief Seattle is inviting you to participate in a giving campaign at the beginning of December. Each day between the 1st and the 12th, we will be collecting a different item that will be given directly to new refugee families.  These items range from Soccer Balls to Laptops and they will go a long way in making Seattle feel not just like another place families have fled to, but that this is now home and they are loved and welcomed by the local community here.

Soccer Balls and Coloring Books: Each year for our Refugee Christmas Party, World Relief Seattle gives away around 150 soccer balls to refugee youth who have arrived to Seattle in the last year.  We will also be giving coloring books and coloring supplies as well.
Soccer
Twin Sheet and Comforter Set: As the weather gets colder, we are asking for twin bedding.  Twin mattresses, box springs, bed frames, blankets and sheets are one of our largest needs each year.
Sheets
Rice Cookers: Rice is the staple food for more than 1.6 Billion people around the world particularly in Asia, Latin America, parts of Africa and the Middle East where many of our refugee friends are arriving from.  A high quality rice cooker can free parents up to spend more time with their children rather than spending time over a stove.
Rice Cooker

Cookware Set: A new set of pots and pans will welcome families into their new kitchen as they prepare meals that are nourishing and familiar.

Pots
Diapers…Size 3 and 4:  A new baby brings joy and happiness to a family and a lot of new expenses too.  When we sit down with families and go over monthly budgets, diapers always pop up as a huge expense that parents worry how to afford.
Diapers
Bed Frames:  We admit it.  There is nothing very exciting about twin bed frames.  But these are some of the hardest things for us to find in large quantities at an affordable price for families.  
Bed Frame
Baby Strollers:  Kids grow quickly and just like with the diapers, we have two different sizes of baby strollers on the registry.  With most of the items on the list we also take the gently used version and if you have an old stroller that you would like to donate to a family please contact our donations team at seattleGIK@wr.org or call (253) 277-1121 x233.
Stroller
Microwaves:  The apartments that families first move into have most modern amenities like a refrigerator, an oven and a stove, but they don’t come with microwaves.  A microwave isn’t a necessity, but it sure helps when you want to heat up some injera for an after school snack.
Microwave
Vacuums:  Keeping a home clean is a large part in making a new apartment feel safe and warm.  A vacuum is an essential piece of equipment and common ask for our donations team to find for new families.
Vaccum
Infant and Child Car Seats:  Car seats are a necessary part of modern life and the transportation of newborns and young children.  They are also to put it mildly, very expensive.  Like diapers, strollers and clothing kids also grow out of them very quickly, which is whey we have added a few different sizes to our wish list.
Car Seat Big
Pack and Play: A pack and play helps new parents watch over their young children in a safe space.  We know of several refugee mothers who are expecting in the coming weeks and months.  Please purchase this item with the matching mattress and sheet sold separately.
Pack and Play
Laptops:  A computer goes a long way in helping someone become self-sufficient here in the U.S. Kids can use it to do homework. Parents can use it to look for employment.  The whole family can use it to communicate with relatives back in their home country.
laptop
We will be using an Amazon baby registry where you can purchase the items and have them shipped directly to our office.  If you already have a gently used version of the same item we are more than happy to accept those as well via our regular donations team which can be reached at seattleGIK@wr.org or by calling (253) 277-1121 x233.  A full list of all the household goods we furnish a home with can be found here.

Strange things happen

Written by Andrew Hays, Investments Coordinator at World Relief

Loren and Karen Marston have a good-sized yard that wraps around their house. When I came to visit on a recent day with temperatures reaching into the 80s, Loren was out amongst the trees, sprucing things up.

“I don’t have a pretty garden,” he said.

But apparently, he does have a popular one.

A week before our meeting, Loren was gathered with others at World Relief’s Welcome Home when he got a call. It was a refugee friend from Afghanistan with a request: could he and a group of Afghan friends have a picnic in the Marstons’ yard…tonight? The park where they’d planned to meet was closed. Loren agreed.

He left his meeting early and returned home to a small crowd of men and boys setting up their picnic. “There were about six cars when I pulled up,” Loren recalled.  More showed up, and soon the Marstons’ yard was playing host to more than 30 guests. Loren strung up a shop light so that the picnic could continue after sunset. It was close to midnight when the last guests drove away.

“Strange things happen,” Loren said with a smile.

IMG_3697

Loren and a young Iraqi friend.

The Marstons will tell you that opening their lives—and their home—to refugees isn’t something that came easily.

“We had to grow into this,” Karen laughed as she recalled their early interactions with refugees.

Over the years, they hosted families that were resettled by World Relief Seattle, first from countries such as Burundi and Congo and more recently from Afghanistan and Iran. The day that I visited them, the Marstons had friends from Afghanistan staying in their basement.

But it was a partnership between their church, Faith Kent, and the local school district that spawned the Marstons’ most recent work with refugees.

Church members volunteered in an English program for refugee students at the elementary school across the street from Faith Kent. When the program’s funding dried up at the end of the 2014 school year, Faith Kent began hosting classes on site at the church through the summer.

What started with school children soon grew to include their parents and siblings. In total, Faith Kent hosted two elementary classes, young children’s care, ESL classes for parents, and a class for middle school and high school students.

Classes continued for the next six months at a local apartment complex where many of the students lived, but space constraints proved problematic. Faith Kent volunteers got into contact with the local school district and were able to secure a building across the street from several apartment complexes that are home to many refugees in the area. One evening a week, they offer activities for the children and English practice time for their parents.20100930-IMG_8923

Connections in the classes often occur naturally. “It’s not like we had a plan of what was going to happen,” said Loren, referring to the bonds that have developed between the refugees and volunteers. Now one year on, several American volunteers visit their new refugee friends outside of class on a regular basis.

Connections can also be unexpected. The day before I met with the Marstons, a public health nurse showed up to volunteer for the first time this year. Much to her surprise, she was greeted by hugs from students who she had previously helped in her work with them as expectant moms.

As Loren put it, “Strange things happen.”

If you’re interested in befriending or volunteering with refugees in King County, there are always people in need of friendship and community. Check out some local volunteering opportunities or email the Volunteer Coordinator at volunteerseattle@wr.org. Find your place in the story!

“We Were Like Birds in Cages”

Introducing one of Kent’s Newest Residents: Robika Noori
Written by Sofia Jarvis – AmeriCorps Employment Specialist

“When I want to do something, I will do it,” Robika Noori says.  At thirty-three years old, Robika has moved further away from home and done more to advance women’s rights than most of us will in a lifetime. She agreed to let me spend some time speaking with her at the Green River College library, about her past, her career advocating for women’s rights in Afghanistan, and what her transition to life in the U.S. has been like.

Robika at work out in the community back in Afghanistan

Robika at work out in the community back in Afghanistan

Robika was twelve when she and her family moved from their home in Kabul to a smaller village in the North of Afghanistan because of the war. Despite the increasingly dangerous situation in Afghanistan, Robika finished high school and graduated with top grades in her class. Her plan was to continue on to university and pursue a degree in engineering, but at the time, the Taliban had gained power in Afghanistan. During this time, Robika explains, it was nearly impossible for both men and women to study because of the increased restrictions on universities in Afghanistan. As security decreased in the North, Robika and her family moved back to Kabul. She looks back on this as a difficult time. “We were like birds in cages,” she says. Women were required to wear a burka, and could not leave the house to go to school, to work, or to go shopping.

In 2003, there was a change in government and it was once again possible for women to be active outside the home. When she began looking into attending university, she found that the records of her high school education had been destroyed, making it impossible for her to continue her studies in Afghanistan. Because of this, Robika decided to take a job at a local NGO instead.  Robika continued on to work for several different projects focused on increasing women’s equality.  She worked as a gender auditor for local NGO’s to ensure that women had access to the resources they needed to work there. She explains, “You should have, for example, day care for them. You should have restrooms for them. What should you do if a woman has, for example, pregnancy, holidays, these things. We had a special gender plan for them.”  In all her positions she worked closely with municipalities, communities, and local elders to design projects with a vision of gender equality in mind.

Robika giving a presentation back in Afghanistan

Robika giving a presentation back in Afghanistan

Robika’s determination and courage helped her to quickly work her way up within the world of NGOs in Afghanistan. Yet, security remained a constant concern for her and her family because of the work she was doing. She explains that there were many people who were against her work, and she had to take precautions to keep herself and her family safe. “Every time we moved to a province, we changed our car. I wore the burka, I wore different clothes than I do now. The same [clothes] like the women who lived in the village. For [each] different province I had different clothes.”

As a result of these many precautions, Robika and her family were able to remain safe in Afghanistan for several years. One day though, Robika stepped into a taxi and the driver recognized her. He said that he knew her, and named the organization she had been working for, where her house was, and what her salary was. Though the organization where Robika was working at the time took measures to keep her safe, Robika did not feel comfortable knowing that the taxi driver, and possibly others, knew about her and her family and where they lived. In January 2014, Robika and her family once again moved back to Kabul, this time to begin the application process for a visa to the United States.

In September 2014, Robika, her husband, and their three young children were able to come to the U.S. They first moved to California where Robika’s aunt lives, but after a few months the high rent, lack of jobs, and distance from the local resettlement agency lead them to make another move, this time to Kent, WA, where Robika became connected to World Relief. Through World Relief, Robika was able to get help with problems like health insurance and finding a job. During the time she spent at English and job classes at World Relief, she met a network of Afghan women. Robika enrolled as a student at Green River College. “College was a dream [I had] when I was in school,” she says. After enrolling at Green River College, she quickly found a work study job as an office assistant. Her days are now filled with both working and studying at Green River. She is currently taking prerequisites and will continue on to major in Business Management.

Robika and her family now living in Kent, WA

Robika and her family now living in Kent, WA

Though Robika likes the Seattle area, she hopes to eventually move back to Afghanistan to continue the work she left there. She says that, “If the security of Afghanistan is good, I will go and I will start work for women again. It is my dream to work for women.” Laughing, she adds that, “my kids, they say, ‘If you go back, we will not go with you, because here is very good.’ “ If Robika is unable to return to Afghanistan (or if her children convince her to stay), she hopes to work as an advisor for a health and human service organization such as DSHS or World Relief to help them better serve the new demographic of Afghans arriving in the area.

Wherever Robika Noori may find herself, it is clear that what she is dedicated to advancing the rights of women. Because of the lack of gender equality and opportunities that exist for women in Afghanistan, Robika says that it is sometimes difficult for Afghan women who have recently come to the U.S. “They think…we can’t,” she says, and continues on to express the need for vocational training for women so that they can play a role in the economy of their families.

Though Robika hopes to someday return home to Afghanistan and continue working for women there, it is clear that she is doing her best– and succeeding– at making a home for herself in the United States as well. She speaks confidently and quickly in English, and her schedule is fully booked with school, work, and interpreting. She helps fellow Afghans whenever she can, and is quick to respond with advice or explanations when asked questions about the Afghan culture. We can count ourselves lucky to have a confident and community-oriented woman like Robika Noori as a resident of Kent.


If you would like to join Robika in empowering Afghan woman toward equality and self-sufficiency, we encourage you to help out in an evening ESL talk time program providing one-on-one tutors for Afghan mothers who are looking to improve the language and cultural competency skills.  For more information please email volunteerseattle@wr.org