Moved by the refugee crisis? Here’s how to help refugees in Austin

syria refugees cc license CC BY 2.0
A Swiss police officer accompanies migrants from Syria carrying their children, upon their arrival at the railway station in the north-eastern Swiss town of Buchs on Sept. 1. (Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters)

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.

Refugee Services of Texas

Caritas of Austin

Mulitcultural Refugee Coalition

Amala Foundation

Center for Survivors of Torture

Interfaith Action of Central Texas


PHOTO: “Syria Refugees” by Freedom House is licensed under CC BY 2.0
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2 Comments on Moved by the refugee crisis? Here’s how to help refugees in Austin

  1. Thanks very much for the info. and resources in this post. I just want to emphasize as well that thousands of refugees fleeing violence in Honduras, Guatemala, and other Central American countries are detained in for-profit prisons in the Karnes, Dilley, and Hutto family detention centers. These imprisoned people are women and their children, subjected to inhumane treatment on a daily basis. The Hutto Visitation Project is another way to help refugees in the Austin area, and Grassroots Leadership is influential in the movement to end refugee incarceration:

  2. I am interested in assisting immigrants into Austin. I am specifically interested in teaching English, assisting with navigating stores, community services, etc and teaching American culture. I have a masters degree in education, have lived in the middle east and would like to assist.

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