Meaghan Gerhart, Communications Intern
While some can simply hop in a car and easily drive from one destination to another, this luxury is not afforded to all. Refugees especially face a special set of challenges without a car, as there are numerous meetings, appointments, and classes they must attend post-initial settlement in the United States. In response, World Relief DuPage Aurora (WRDA) started the car donation program. Life in the suburban DuPage and Kane counties requires reliable transportation over greater distances, which can present challenges to those without a car. With the ability to give refugee clients a car, this enables refugees to get to work, run family errands and effectually relieves the strain on WRDA’s shuttle program.
The car donation process begins with a donor, who generously brings their car to World Relief and signs over the title to WRDA. In order to incentivize car donations, car donors are entitled to a tax write-off based on the current re-sale value of the car. Then, World Relief has the car evaluated by a mechanic to determine what repairs are needed or recommended. When the repairs have been made, the car is ready to be given to a qualified refugee.
A refugee is eligible for consideration to receive a donated car if they are working full-time (or have an imminent job offer); have a valid driver’s license; can afford to pay for the expenses associated with owning the car (insurance, title transfer, plates); and agree to help others whom World Relief is serving that are in need of transportation. Often, and ideally, a donated car will result in a car pool that will provide transportation and work to a few or even several different refugees. Donated cars are often given to someone who is in the best position to help other people get to work.
In all cases, the WRDA staff must use their discernment in deciding what will bring the most value to the clients—whether that be donation to a refugee, impounding the car, or using the car for a shuttle. For example, at times individuals will donate a car that can’t be repaired at a reasonable price. In those cases, WRDA impounds the vehicle in order gain a profit of a couple hundred dollars. Other times, a donor will give WRDA a car that is so valuable that it makes better sense to sell the car and use the proceeds to pay for repairs on other cars. Occasionally, WRDA will get a car that can best be used as a shuttle vehicle and is kept by World Relief.
One of the beneficiaries of the car donation program is Tek Tiwari, a recent refugee to the United States. Tiwari, his wife, 3 children, two adult sisters and elderly mother all live together in a household. Tiwari has been currently working at his company for almost 2 years and has always had to rely on co-workers to get to work. Like many other refugees designated as the primary breadwinner, Tiwari had been forced to live under the pressure of living pay-check to pay-check supporting his family of five. Saving a portion of his paycheck to pay for a car was impractical and unreasonable.
Luckily, a previous client of WRDA Cyros Amiri, was in the financial position to donate a car to WRDA. Amiri had worked with Employment Services to secure a job when he had initially resettled to the United States, and with this income, he was able to save for a car. In an effort to pay it forward, Amiri decided to donate his vehicle to WRDA after purchasing his new car. Tiwari was the perfect recipient of Amiri’s donation. Tiwari’s sisters and niece recently resettled in the United States, and through the robust Employment Services department, his family members were able to secure employment at the same company that employs Tiwari. In effect, he will be changing shifts to be able to drive his family to work. Not only will this bring more income to Tiwari’s family, but this will also cut down on costs for WRDA, as this will help WR to end a shuttle that had been running.
Tiwari is now afforded the freedom and independence to support his family more easily, a freedom that is often taken for granted among many in suburban America. Tiwari will no longer have to rely on others to help him do day-to-day things like going to the grocery store or take his children to the doctor. Through the generous donation of another refugee, who had once been in Tiwari’s very position, Tiwari can live a more normal life. The experience of receiving such a life-changing gift truly moved Tiwari, and he hopes to later give back to his fellow community of refugees, just as Amiri had done for him.