This year has unfolded in a way no one could have imagined. Our initial vision of building upon and expanding our existing programs quickly shifted to emergency relief efforts as unexpected restrictions, economic conditions, and job loss threatened to undo so much of what we’ve built these last five years.
Early on, we committed to resisting a crisis-centric response, and instead committed to fully embracing these unexpected challenges head on. To see this season not as a setback, but as an opportunity to creatively repurpose this time and re-envision what our programs and care could look like.
As we look back, we are humbled by how much there is to celebrate this year!
• COVID-19 Emergency Relief Efforts: Over 105 families
We met requests for essential items for over 105 families in the refugee community, including bags of cleaning supplies, diapers and toilet paper, medical supplies, and non-perishable food. In the weeks these items were sold out in stores or very difficult to come by, we were able to safely source them and deliver them to families homes. In addition, we were able to pay utility bills for individuals and families who lost their jobs, and worked to meet food insecurity needs.
• Launch of Youth Mentorship Intensive: 25 Students
After receiving a grant from the Oregon Department of Human Services to provide concentrated one-on-one mentorship to 10 students for the 2020-21 school year, we have already enrolled 25 students in this program. We are so excited about the opportunity to come alongside refugee students in this way!
• Mentorship Programs: 20 New Mentors and Over 80 Newcomers
Over the last year, we’ve been able to connect 20 new long-time community members with some of our newest neighbors. These volunteers have committed to being a long-term presence in the lives of those they are matched with, and receive training and ongoing support as they walk through daily life with individuals and families. This accounts for over 80 newcomers within the refugee resettlement community.
• Deepening of Existing Relationships: Over 175 People
Our models of mentorship are rooted in long-term relationships. Far more than filling a short, one-time need (such as driving someone to an appointment or to the grocery store), we work to foster relationships that may grow into genuine friendships or create a sense of family. Through this process, we have seen both newcomers and volunteer’s lives transform. Our existing team of volunteer mentors continues to remain connected to over 175 people here in the community.
• Restart Kits & Essential Items: 450+ Restart Kits, 50 Laptops, & More
In a year marked by incredible difficulty for everyone, we received an overwhelmingly generous response through hundreds of Restart Kits, winter coats, and other essential household items. Through our regular Collection Days and other forms of giving, we received over 450 Restart Kits this year along with over $26,000 in other donations, including winter coats, furniture, and gift cards. These items are delivered directly to newly arriving families, as well as distributed to families as part of our emergency relief efforts. Beyond this, we received 50 laptop computers, the majority of which were brand new, in order to assist refugee students in attending school virtually.
• Meeting Food Insecurity Needs: Over 52 Families
One of the greatest needs during this pandemic, especially for newcomers, has been food insecurity. We often see food boxes which include the basic pantry staples, but lack the quality ingredients we would hope to see families receive. This past year, we partnered with Mora Mora Farm and Bridgetown Church to distribute fresh, organic produce boxes to 15 families each week. The sense of dignity that this has communicated to families during such a difficult season has been beautiful to witness. In addition, we have worked to distribute grocery gift cards, pantry staples when grocery stores were running unusually low, and additional food boxes to families. Stepping into this new space has been a transition for our team, and we are eager to expand this work throughout 2021.
• Growth of Agency Partnerships
Our partnerships with the three local resettlement agencies have continued to grow throughout this year. Our work has expanded into the Citizenship and Parenting Programs at Lutheran Community Services, and we continue to come alongside Catholic Charities and SOAR. As we all work together to meet emergency one-time needs, place first time matches, distribute Restart Kits to those in the resettlement community, we find ourselves so grateful for the case workers and staff members at each of these agencies. It is an honor to be invited to partner so closely with each of them!
• Our Five Year Anniversary
We have a deep commitment to being a people who do not visit, but a people who stay. This year, Refugee Care collective celebrated five years of work and community partnerships, and we couldn’t be more proud to have not only such a committed team, but to be surrounded by a community of people who have chosen to not only welcome, but to walk alongside. We have worked hard to build sustainable programs and lasting relationships that can stand not only the test of time, but the test of difficult circumstances. We cannot wait to see what the next five years hold!
• Growth in Community Partnerships
We are so grateful for community partners who prioritize coming alongside the refugee community. We saw a number of new faith communities give generously toward Restart Kits, our Emergency Relief Fund, or laptop computers for families and students. We partnered with a number of small businesses who helped collect items to fill Restart Kits, or who donated their own products to include in gift bags for exhausted case workers and resettlement agency staff who have worked so hard.
• As We Enter 2021, We Are Hopeful
This year has been one marked by loss, unexpected challenges, and emotionally exhausting work. Our partners are tired, and our team is small. And yet, we remain as hopeful as ever. We have been deeply moved by all the ways the community has come together in the work of coming alongside refugee families who are rebuilding their lives. Adapting to meet the ever changing needs and seeing the impact of these efforts has left us feeling deeply encouraged, proud, and ready for 2021 – whatever may come.
Thank you to our Agency Partners for the gift of working so closely together: Lutheran Community Services NW, Catholic Charities of Oregon, and Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon. To core Community Partners who went above and beyond this year through financial and in-kind donations: Bridgetown Church, River West Church, Imago Dei Community, Cedar Mill Bible, Theophilus Church, Westside, and Beaverton Foursquare. And to each of you who supported this work so generously.
If there is one thing we have learned in 2020, it is how the ways that we show up when life doesn’t go as planned have the power to carry far more meaning than any external circumstance or hardship.
As you consider your final gifts of the year, we invite you into this story of coming alongside refugee families rebuilding their lives. Give to our work for this upcoming year, here.
Thank you for being a community of people who continue to show up with hope and presence.