This year, we experienced the power of a collective firsthand.
The global refugee crisis became deeply personal for so many of us who followed along as the news broke in Afghanistan earlier this year. This time, the refugees entering this country would not be coming for reasons far removed from our daily lives, but as the result of a situation much closer to home.
Following the news, we experienced lines of hundreds of cars outside our warehouse. Oregonians from across the state rallied to provide restart kits and other essential items for those who are newly arriving. We’ve seen families, faith communities, and businesses step up to ask how they can help support the growing numbers of people being displaced – not just from Afghanistan, but from countries across the world.
We continue to be deeply moved by how our community has stepped into this work, responding in such tangible ways to those who are rebuilding their lives.
In a year of hardship, we are grateful for how much there is to celebrate!
• Afghan Arrivals
Our community has already welcomed over 265 Afghan evacuees to Portland these last few months and we’re expecting around 900 more people through next year. From restart kits and welcome notes to winter coats and grocery gift cards, to temporary housing and volunteer support, we recognize that the act of rebuilding is an ongoing, long-term process. We are committed not only to this initial welcome, but to walking alongside these families through the coming years of challenges.
• 2,470 Restart Kits (All Time Record)
We received a record number of restart kits this year and have been encouraged by the overwhelming generosity of the community. Through our collection days, we received over 2,470 restart kits to distribute to newly arriving families in Portland. These kits filled with brand new household items – pots and pans, dishes, bedding, bath towels and much more – are received by refugee families as they arrive in Portland. With the help of volunteers and case managers, they continue to make their way into the homes of our new neighbors, filling not only an initial need, but making a lasting impression of welcome and care.
• Mentorship Programs: 31 New Mentors
Families receive ongoing support and friends to gather around them as they work to rebuild their lives. From grocery shopping, to navigating public transportation, to English language learning, newly arriving refugees face numerous challenges on their path to self-sufficiency. Over the last year, we’ve connected dozens of mentors with some of our newest neighbors, and we now have a volunteer base walking alongside 215 people. In addition, we have over 140 volunteers ready and waiting to be paired with families as they arrive in the coming months.
• Emergency Relief for 110 Families
This year we have restocked the cupboards of dozens of refugee families with COVID-19 related supplies, provided temporary housing to several families, connected a donated vehicle to a family whose car was damaged, distributed grocery gift cards to 62 families, provided a single mom with all necessary items for her newborn baby, connected food boxes to over 50 families before a winter storm, and distributed hundreds of winter coats to our new neighbors. These are only a handful of the countless small moments we’ve been honored to be a part of over the last year.
• Expansion of Weekly Produce Boxes
We were grateful for the opportunity to expand our produce box distribution from 15 families in 2020 to 50 families in 2021. Each week, 50 farm fresh produce boxes were distributed to refugee families across the city for over six months. We partnered with Mora Mora Farms, Bridgetown Church, and several caseworkers and volunteers to bring this produce into the homes and onto the tables of our newest neighbors during a much-needed time.
• Expansion of Youth Mentorship with ODHS
Last year, we began a new partnership with Oregon Department of Human Services to provide one-on-one mentorship to refugee youth. This program has mentors meeting with youth every week over the course of the year. We are excited to announce that this program was expanded to now include 22 youth through the 2021-22 school year, providing academic assistance, friendship, and general support as youth navigate what it is to call Portland home.
• Looking Ahead to 2022
This fall we have seen the first arrivals from Afghanistan, but our work in welcoming these families has just begun. In 2022, we will see the majority of Afghan evacuees arrive in Portland, with new arrivals expected weekly. We will also see families resettled from countries across the world, including Iraq, Myanmar, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. With a growing volunteer base and partnerships to support this work, we are looking forward to not only expanding our restart kits, mentorship, and emergency relief programs to meet increased numbers, but also to increase the scope of our care.
We are deeply grateful to every individual and family who played an essential role in this work. Additionally, thank you to a number of key partners including New Seasons, The Boeing Company, Grace Chapel Church, Avery Dennison, The Oregon Jewish Museum and Holocaust Education Center, Jacobson Salt Co., and to every other community who has partnered through financial and in-kind donations this year. We are also so grateful for Beaverton Foursquare and Cedar Mill Bible, who have opened furnished houses to be used exclusively for housing refugee families, along with Bridgetown and River West Church, who continue to be core partners in this work of welcome.
As you consider your final gifts of the year, we invite you to join us in coming alongside refugee families as they rebuild their lives. Give to our work here.
Thank you for your generosity, partnership, and support of our new neighbors. Wishing you and your family peace, love, and joy this holiday season.
Refugee Care Collective