As the world’s refugee crisis continues to worsen, more and more individuals — people like you — are asking what they can do to help. You might worry that if you can’t take a trip or donate large dollar amounts, there are not many ways to help. Au contraire. There is plenty you can do, whether you have five minutes, five hours, five days or five weeks.
If you can go on a volunteer trip, please jump at that chance! They can be life-changing and soul-expanding. But you do not have to cross an ocean to find meaningful ways to serve.
There are so many opportunities close to home that everyone can help in some way. Connect with a local organization you would like to help and find out what their needs are. It’s a bit sad for everyone if you spend time, money and effort on something that is not needed. With that caveat, here are some ideas:
Sew bears or dolls for Dolls of Hope to send to refugee camps.
Put together hygiene kits.
Put together school kits in new backpacks.
Put together birth/newborn kits.
Organize a new car seat drive for hospitals to give to refugee parents.
Start an online fundraising campaign and share with your friends and neighbors to support your chosen organization.
Reach out to refugees in your local community and get to know them.
Become a mentor to a refugee or refugee family.
Help a refugee family learn to navigate U.S. grocery stores.
Help refugees learn to create a resume and assist them in finding a job.
Learn and share what you know about the refugee crisis.
Speak up against intolerance, bigotry and bias.
Organize a fundraising dinner in your local community.
Support local businesses run by refugees.
Learn and share stories of refugees.
Furnish an apartment for a new refugee family.
Volunteer to tutor a refugee in English.
Help a refugee family register their children for school.
Invite a refugee family to dinner.
Be politically active and lobby for support for refugees.
Send letters to the editor of your local paper in support of refugees.
Use social media to spread messages of support, to raise awareness and to fundraise.
Attend a community event like the August 17 event with Ishmael Beah, author of “A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier.” Powerful book, by the way.
Become a foster family for unaccompanied refugee children, usually teens.
Help refugee kids get involved in community sports. Consider coaching a team.
Volunteer with a refugee scout troop..
Speak to school or church groups about refugees.
Collect and donate cleaning supplies.
Help refugees grow a community garden.
Help refugees study for and obtain a Utah driver’s license.
Become a tech mentor. How do you hook up that printer again?
Mentor a refugee single mother.
After-school program volunteer.
Help refugees to read, understand and appropriately respond to mail.
Volunteer to assist victims of human trafficking (females preferred).
Volunteer to help teach knitting to a refugee women’s knitting group.
Help herd goats with the East African Refugee Project of Utah.
Eat at the Spice Kitchen Incubator.
Here are some of the organizations in Utah working with refugees:
Because He First Loved Us: a relational ministry to refugee families to meet spiritual, educational and, practical needs through child and family mentoring and resource networking.
Cache Refugee and Immigrant Connection: focused on helping refugees living in Cache County.
Catholic Community Services: currently running a backpack drive for the upcoming school year. One of the largest relief organizations helping refugees in Utah.
English Skills Learning Center: Get trained to teach English to refugees and other new immigrants.
Granite School District: The majority of Utah’s refugee children live within the boundaries of Granite School District. They have a number of programs and always need additional volunteers..
International Rescue Committee of Utah: Another one of the big groups focused on helping refugees. They also have a short video explaining that your chances of being killed by a refugee in the United States are 1 in 3.64 billion. You are 4 times more likely to be struck by lightning.
Know Your Neighbor: Joint program between the Salt Lake City Mayor’s office and the Utah Refugee Services Office to connect refugees with their neighbors.
One Refugee: helps refugee students pursue a degree from a local college by providing money for refugee education, enrollment counseling, tutors and opportunities for social networking.
The Refugee and Immigrant Center - Asian Association of Utah: Another one of the larger organizations helping resettle refugees in Utah. They are currently looking for volunteers in several areas.
Utah Health and Human Rights: This organization focuses on providing healing and hope to refugee and immigrants who have survived torture and severe war trauma..
Utah International Charter School: Located near a refugee population center, this school serves children from grades 7-12 who come from a number of different countries, speaking many languages, and helps them not only graduate from high school but prepares them to enter the job force and/or college.
Utah Refugee Connection: Connect with URC to connect with many refugee needs and upcoming events in Utah.
Utah Refugee Services Offices The state office located within the Division of Workforce Services dedicated to refugee suppor.
Edward Hale said it well: “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.”
Let’s go and do.
Holly Richardson is a regular contributor to The Salt Lake Tribune.