Updated: Oct 14
The COVID-19 pandemic is being keenly felt in the refugee community – in life-threatening illness, financial hardship, and for recently arrived families especially, the unhealthy isolation and stress of being locked down at home in a strange new country.
During the crisis, many of our One Journey activities and events have been postponed. Our volunteers can still make a difference. Here are 15 volunteer opportunities for helping refugees now. Several of these are through refugee resettlement agencies. Contact Kenn at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more or get connected to resources.
1. Order face masks sewn by refugees struggling to get by (order here) If you order more than 5 masks, the cost is $7 per mask. If you order 5 or less masks, the cost is $9 per mask. We are supporting sister organization NOVA Friends of Refugees’ Refugee Mask Maker Circle initiative. The circle members are sewing cloth face masks to help replace lost income during the pandemic. Use or share the masks yourself, or donate to purchase masks and we will donate them to a local hospital or elder refugees in need.
2. Make protective face masks for elder refugees, hospitals, health workers, first responders, and more. We can send mask patterns (sew and no-sew) and then arrange pickup and delivery to Walter Reed Military Medical Center or elder refugees in need. We also endorse making face masks through the Million Mask Challenge, which has now organized 4,600 volunteers in the DMV to make more than 76,000 masks.
3. Help refugee artists, activists and organizers. With entertainment venues closed, there’s no work for refugee musicians, singers, dancers and storytellers. Support One Journey’s initiative to create a virtual platform for its network of partners and performers by tuning in on Facebook or donating directly.
4. Be a remote mentor for a refugee student. Contact a refugee resettlement agency and volunteer to help remotely with learning activities. Being available for students to practice their conversational English is a big help.
5. Organize a food donation drive for your local food bank. Become a collection point for donations (while practicing social distancing), or make a financial donation. Many refugee families depend on food banks, which are struggling to meet increased demand.
6. Sign up to be a “muscle mover” to lift and transport furniture to a newly arrived family. We’ll connect you with area refugee resettlement and community groups that ready apartments. Do you have your own truck? They need you!
7. Have a culturally appropriate meal delivered to the home of a newly arrived refugee or SIV family.
8. Donate to charities and relief funds that are directly assisting refugees and immigrants affected by COVID-19 with financial assistance, food security, and other support. These include Arlington Food Assistance Center, Ayuda COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund, Capital Area Food Bank, Catholic Charities – Immigration and Refugee Services, Congregation Action Network COVID-19 Emergency Fund, Cornerstones, Ethiopian Community Development Council (ECDC), Hunger Free Alexandria, International Rescue Committee (Silver Spring), Karam Foundation, La Cocina VA, Lutheran Social Services National Capital Area, Many Languages One Voice, The Lee Initiative, The Table Church DC, and many others.
9. Order delivery or take-out from local refugee- and immigrant-owned restaurants. Some of our partners and area favorites: DC Dosa, Diolan Uyghur, Foodhini, Gisele’s Creole Cuisine. Immigrant Food, Kuya Ja’s, Lapis, Mama’s Pizza Kitchen, Moby Dick House of Kabob, Red Toque Kabob, Thamee.
10. Deliver fresh groceries to a family's home in Maryland or Virginia. Help refugee families who are struggling financially or unable to leave their homes.
11. Donate furniture, household items, and diapers (!) and infant supplies. New Americans are still arriving on their own, but refugee resettlement agencies and community groups are running short on these donations.
12. Help a refugee family and youth stay engaged, learning, and financially secure during COVID-19. Consider donating a laptop, rental assistance for a family in need, and gift cards for groceries, plus books, toys, or a TV to keep families engaged and active, Start a “Good Neighbor Fundraiser” with your family, community group, or faith community to assist a newly arrived refugee family.
13. Keep advocating. Contact your federal, state, and local representatives and ask them to assist refugees and other new Americans hardest for by the health and economic impacts of the pandemic.