Volunteers/Friends of the Refugee Support Center,
It has been a while since COVID-19 upturned our lives. None have been more affected than refugees. They are out of work; they have lost their daily supports and connections; they are bewildered because they can’t help their children with school assignments; and they are scared. But you have come through for them. Thank you. You have donated money; you have sent or dropped off gift cards and you have shared our funding appeal with friends and neighbors. We have been amazed with the response and to date have depleted almost 60 % of the contributions. We also received a small grant, which has been totally consumed, from United Way’s COVID Rapid Response Fund and are grateful for that.
Despite the stress and anxiety of the current situation, refugees have reminded me frequently that they have been through much worse. They will weather this too. Meanwhile, their efforts to look out for one another and to share what they can is poignant. Examples of their selflessness include, “No, give him my gift card if you don’t have enough – his family needs it more.” “How can we help X because everybody in the house is not working now?” “I want to donate to you because I still have a job from midnight to 7:00am; I want to help other refugees who aren’t lucky like me to work.”
We are doing our best to deliver services remotely, including filing claims for unemployment benefits, applying for Food Stamps and Medicaid, submitting tax returns (done by a VITA-trained tax preparer), troubleshooting stimulus check glitches, connecting clients with our pro bono/low bono attorneys, assisting kids with their school work, filing green card and citizenship applications, teaching citizenship class via Zoom and answering a myriad of refugees’ questions about Stay-At-Home orders, their health, bills, etc. We have also started helping covid-positive refugees navigate their employment benefit options-if they exist- to determine if they get paid while in isolation. None of these remote services would be possible without the dedication and commitment of our heroic volunteers and staff.
In our brick and mortar location, we are open on a limited basis to distribute Food Lion gift cards, diapers, and food, to assist with rent/Habitat mortgage payments and see clients who can’t be helped remotely. Please know that we are NOT having refugees come to us for all of the distributions. Several refugee “distribution captains” pick up the food from us and deliver to apartment complexes with high concentrations of refugees.
When giving out Food Lion gift cards, we make it clear that they are made possible because “ordinary people” have donated money to help refugees. Some are surprised that people would do that. So not only are we distributing aid, we are distributing community good will to a population to whom that is not always conveyed.
Thank you for continuing to hold refugees in your heart and to help them. COVID-19, for all its menace, has managed to harness the better angels of our community’s nature. And that’s something we can all celebrate.
Director, Refugee Support Center