It’s easy right now to think of a refugee as someone a world away and in circumstances we could never imagine. While our city and state’s plan to welcome new refugees is unknown, it has brought my attention to the thousands of refugees living in Dallas and working, living life and raising children right next to me every day. Our vibrant city is made more diverse and interesting with the new communities of refugees currently in our city and the new traditions and cultures they bring with them. I believe taking the time to help our new neighbors is a great way to gain perspective on different backgrounds and overcoming challenges while learning more about ourselves as well.
The best way to help refugees is to welcome them to Dallas and show them ways to blend their unique background with how we do things around here to create a new, thriving chapter in life. From helping process immigration paperwork to getting dirty in the community garden, playing extreme makeover on a new apartment or being a Dallas tour guide, I really love how there is a way for every talent and interest to get involved in making our city more welcoming for people in the unfortunate and unexpected need for a new place to call home.
Here are a few of the top accredited and established agencies in Dallas welcoming our refugees and ways for families to get involved.
International Rescue Committee
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is in more than 40 countries helping those in danger from war or unrest find safety. The IRC resettles thousands of refugees into 26 U.S. cities every year, including Dallas. The IRC works with the government on refugee immigration as well as refugees themselves on integration into daily American life and employment. Our family recently finished our training to be a Mentor Family where we will be matched with a refugee family and meet with them two hours once a week for six months to have dinner together, visit local attractions, help the family navigate things like grocery shopping and the DART and practice English. We can even be matched with a family with small children like us so our activities can be enjoyed by everyone! I am always excited to show a new family everything I love about Dallas, so I am really looking forward to using my “best of” Dallas lists for a good cause!
Have a green thumb or a knack for decorating? IRC also needs volunteers to help in their New Roots community garden and setting up and decorating apartments for newly arriving families, many of whom have spent years living in refugee camps before boarding their flight to Dallas. IRC also hosts Resume Building Luncheons at their offices where you can help a refugee work on their resumes and employment applications. If you like to work behind the scenes, they also need help answering phones and helping their staff with paperwork and office management.
Refugee Services of Texas
Similar to the IRC, Refugee Services of Texas is a service agency that helps refugees resettle and obtain proper quality of life in Texas. You can volunteer on a Welcome Team with RST where you might greet an incoming refugee family at the airport, drive them to medical appointments and job interviews or help them enroll children in school. These activities are a great way for refugees to meet a familiar face and have the opportunity to get to know more about Dallas life and customs while becoming self-sufficient.
Heart House Dallas
Have you heard of the Vickery Meadow community? Just near NorthPark Center is one of our most diverse communities in Dallas where refugees live together as they settle into new lives in Dallas. Heart House serves the children in this community by welcoming refugee children living in Vickery Meadows after school for a nutritious meal, homework assistance, help with English and other academics as well as outdoor play time. Special curriculum focused on English, logic and reading helps children acclimate and advance in our academic system. If you have a special skill or love working with children, the volunteer opportunities at Heart House are limitless, from teaching children cooking or art to reading to students, helping with homework or putting together a birthday celebration for a refugee child who may have never had a proper birthday party before.
Hidden Acres Refugee Ministry Camps
A sentiment I often hear about children in refugee situations and wonder when I see my own child playing at home is “when do children get to just be kids?” Hidden Acres Refugee Camp welcomes refugees who have resettled in Dallas to attend day camp at their sprawling retreat center in Kaufman. Your church or school group (45 volunteers or more) can volunteer to work at the camp, providing new memories like paddle boating and arts and crafts to a child who has been deprived of these types of experiences living in refugee camps and resettling to a new country. Your group will also enjoy the benefits of being out in the country and serving together! You can learn more about Hidden Acres refugee programs here.
Where to Donate
If your plate is too full for volunteering with refugee services, but you would still like to lend a hand, many agencies are in need of monetary donations and many in-kind items you might have at home!
Locally, International Rescue Committee would love your household items like vacuum cleaners, microwaves, cleaning supplies, diapers, car seats, coats and blankets.
If you’re buying art, sports or school supplies for your own family, consider adding some more to the cart for the children at Heart House. You can drop them off or mail to their local offices.
If you have a baby carrier (Ergo or similar) you have outgrown, you can mail it to Carry the Future for refugees to use while walking to safety in Europe.
Carry the Future
121 W. Lexington Drive, Suite L 106D
Glendale, California 91203
While there may not be many tangible ways for us as civilians to stop the atrocities of war around the world, I am excited to get my family involved in ways to help make my hometown of Dallas a new home for honest, loving and hard working people ready for a fresh start.