With the proliferation of photos, video and news about the refugee crisis stemming from the war-torn countries in the Middle East and Africa, it’s become easier for us to imagine the challenge of arriving in a new country after a treacherous journey with only the items you could carry and with little to no prospects for housing, work, schools… even your next meal.
As their plight becomes more visible, many Austinites are wondering what they can do beyond donations to help these migrants and refugees on their journey to Europe… but did you know that Austin is home for about 12,000 refugees with 500 to 1,000 new refugees arriving every year?
According to the City of Austin’s Health and Human Services department, Austin’s 12,000 refugees hail from countries as diverse as Bosnia, Burma, Cuba, Sudan, and Vietnam. Since 2000, they have been primarily African as well as Cuban refugees. In the last few years, most of the refugees who settled in Austin hail from Afghanistan, Burma, Bhutan, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Nepal, DR Congo, Somalia, Ethiopia, and Eritea.
Refugees resettled in Austin are placed with an agency, like the ones below, that provide basic needs for the first 90 days. From there, they work with the refugee toward self-sufficiency and help them find their place in the community. And that’s where volunteers come in.
The good news is there are a range of opportunities to help these refugees in Austin. Some examples of volunteer work include:
- Welcome refugees on arrival
- Help set-up apartments
- Translate materials
- Teach English, teach financial management
- Help orient them to things like grocery stores, medical services
- Organize fundraising events or donation drives
- Provide transportation to medical appointments of job interviews
- Mentor a family and orient them to schools, places of worship, nonprofits and community
- Help families work toward self-sufficiency
Here are some organizations that work with refugees in Austin. Click through to learn about specific volunteer and donation opportunities with these groups.