If you have ever moved to a new city or country, you probably know how important it is to feel welcome in your new community. For refugees and immigrants, welcome can be the difference between flourishing in our community or struggling in isolation. World Relief DuPage/Aurora recently joined with many communities around the country to celebrate “Welcoming Week”. Take a moment to consider some of the ways that you can commit to welcome refugees and immigrants in our communities.
Make a New Friend
While refugees do have significant physical needs when they first arrive in the U.S., their greatest need is for friendship. You can volunteer to walk alongside a refugee family during their first months of life in the U.S. by helping them navigate school enrollment, search for a job, or practice English. Befriending a new neighbor can also be a great opportunity to learn more about another country and culture. As your friendship grows, you will likely find that you learn as much from your new friend as they learn from you!
Provide Transportation for Refugees
When refugees arrive in the U.S., finding reliable transportation can be a big challenge. Suburban areas usually don’t have dependable public transportation options, and it takes time to study for a drivers permit and license. Welcoming refugees by providing transportation allows them to get to work, ESL classes, or other appointments. Transportation volunteers may also have the opportunity to pick refugees up at the airport when they first arrive, and take them to their new homes.
Become an ESL Tutor
Learning English is crucial to the successful integration of refugees and immigrants in the U.S. As a refugee or immigrant’s English improves, they gain access to higher paying jobs and education opportunities. Becoming an ESL tutor, either in a classroom setting or one-on-one in someone’s home, is one of the most practical ways you can welcome others.
Volunteer In World Relief’s Early Childhood Program
Refugee children usually learn English very quickly, especially if they are in a school setting where they hear English spoken on a daily basis. However, toddlers and preschoolers don’t have as many opportunities to hear English spoken, which can make the transition to kindergarten difficult. Volunteers in our Early Childhood Program organize educational activities for refugee children while their parents attend ESL classes. This prepares children for their eventual entry into a public school setting.
Pray for Refugees and Immigrants
Prayer may not be the first thing we think of when we hear the word ‘welcome,’ but it might be one of the most important ways that we can be welcomers. Pray for the challenges that newly arrived refugees face as they adjust to life in an unfamiliar place. Pray for environments that are welcoming and that encourage immigrants (including refugees) from all backgrounds to thrive. Pray for an end to the conflicts that displace people around the world. And pray that even more churches and individuals will get involved in the ministry of welcome.
Advocate for DACA Recipients
On September 5th, the Attorney General announced the termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Since it began in 2012, DACA has allowed approximately 800,000 young people who were brought to the U.S. as children, also known as Dreamers, to obtain work authorization and a reprieve from the threat of deportation. Now, Congress has six months to pass a legislative solution for Dreamers or they will once again be at risk for deportation. You can stand with Dreamers by urging Congress to pass a bill like the Dream Act, which would allow them to continue living and working in the U.S. To learn more, visit our advocacy page.
If you are interested in welcoming refugees and immigrants in any of these ways, please check out our volunteer opportunities. And to all who have already committed to welcoming refugees and immigrants through your actions – thank you! You are making a difference.