Frequently Asked Questions
Who is a refugee? Who is arriving from Afghanistan?
A refugee is a person forced to flee their home country because of war, violence, conflict or persecution, due to their race, nationality, religion, or membership in a particular social group or political opinion, and has crossed international borders to seek safety. People become refugees when they cross country borders. They are displaced (or Internally Displaced Persons) when forced to flee their homes but remain within their own country.
The traditional path for refugees coming from Afghanistan is through what is called SIV, known as Special Immigrant Visa. This is for Afghan citizens who have worked with the U.S. government or military in a specific capacity, and whose lives are in danger as a result.
Other Afghan families and individuals will arrive through a different existing pathway that the government is utilizing, because of the recent need for quick evacuation. This is known as Humanitarian Parole, and is an entry status to the United States as a response for certain disasters and emergencies.
What is the mission of Refugee Care Collective, and what do you do?
Refugee Care Collective is a nonprofit organization that mobilizes the city of Portland to come alongside refugee families as they work to rebuild their lives. Everything we do is designed to help those we serve return to a state of self-sufficiency and empowerment. We are motivated by the value of each person; in our particular context, those who are forced to flee their country of origin in search of refuge.
This mission takes many forms. From the hospitality of warmly welcoming newly arriving families at the airport, to the meeting of essential tangible needs through restart kits, to tutoring and mentorship programs, we are committed to walking alongside our new neighbors in their transition to a new life in Portland, bringing hope to some of the most vulnerable in our city.
We partner closely with the three resettlement agencies in Portland, distributing restart kits, matching long-term relational volunteers, and operating emergency relief programs.
What is your greatest need?
We appreciate the question. We’re looking for 800-1,000 sqft warehouse space on both the Westside and Eastside, on the ground level with easy access for drop-offs and pickups of essential items for refugee families. If you’re interested in partnering to help sponsor this need, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How many people are expected to be resettled in Portland in the coming year?
Portland has resettled tens of thousands of people who now call this city home. We are expecting to receive between 1,200-1,400 people in Portland, with a couple hundred of those people being resettled in Salem. Some Afghan SIV holders are included in that total number. In addition, we’re also expecting 300-500 Afghan arrivals. Portland primarily resettles those from Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Syria, Ukraine, and Myanmar.
How are you using funds to support Afghan families?
We are using funds to support families through restart kits, gift cards for food, emergency housing as long-term options are set up, and services such as family/youth mentorship. We have already started seeing the funds so many have given be used in meaningful ways.
In order to protect the identity, safety, and dignity of these families, and to comply with our resettlement agencies partnerships, we are unable to share identifying information of those resettled in Portland. We look forward to sharing stories in ways that guard and protect those we serve.
What are the biggest needs for restart kits?
Our restart kit program has eight different restart kits that are given to refugees upon arrival, and we have a general need for all of the kits. If you’re putting together more than one, it’s best to do a variety in order to help keep all of our kits in stock.
We usually have a greater need for Queen & Twin Bedding, as well as Kitchen 1 & Kitchen 2. We also need gift cards to Winco, Fred Meyer, and Target. Gift cards can be mailed to our warehouse, at 10160 SW Nimbus Ave, Suite F-3, 97223.
Please note: Our warehouse is not regularly staffed, and only open to receive restart kits during scheduled collection days. We also ask that all restart kit items be new, in order to honor those arriving to Portland.
I have something I’d like to donate. Do you accept furniture? Toys? Clothes?
Thank you for your heart to give to our new neighbors. We primarily focus on restart kits and gently used winter coats / rain jackets. We also receive laptop computers (2016 or newer laptops and tablets), to distribute to newly arriving families as well.
Refugee Care Collective is not able to accept furniture, baby items, toys, or clothing beyond winter coats and rain jackets.
While our resettlement agency partners accept furniture, their storage spaces are at capacity and they are unable to take additional furniture at this time. We recommend donating to Community Warehouse, and to Deseret Industries for clothing and household items, as many refugee families go there for varying needs.
I would like to volunteer. What are the next steps?
Thanks for your interest! Our programs are mostly structured for long-term volunteering. We offer family and youth mentorship programs, where we match adult volunteer teams with refugees who are resettled in Portland. We ask for a 12-month commitment, connecting with the family or youth you’re matched with on a mostly weekly basis. Relational volunteers go through a volunteer orientation, background check and application, and attend monthly volunteer gatherings. Please note: Most refugee families will be placed in SE, with some in North Portland and the Beaverton/Tigard area. We will also be looking for some volunteers in Vancouver, WA. We prioritize matching relational volunteers for Family & Youth Mentorship, in these areas.
We also need monthly volunteer support at our warehouse in Tigard – organizing restart kits, and preparing and labeling them to be distributed to newly arriving refugees.
In addition to this, we help fill volunteer needs at all three resettlement agencies – focusing on transportation requests, apartment setup, and drivers for donation pickups.
I am really moved by the current events taking place in Afghanistan. Can I be matched with a family specifically from Afghanistan?
Perhaps! We are so moved by the desire of so many to come alongside newly arriving families from Afghanistan. While newly arriving families will have the option of being connected with a volunteer team, there are a number of factors that go into this.
We aim to match volunteers based on what is best for the family – location in the city, shared language, connection to their country of origin or its people are all factors we consider when connecting volunteers with families.
While we will see an increased number of families from Afghanistan, Portland will also see refugee families arriving from countries across the world, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Iraq, Myanmar, and Ukraine. We are looking for volunteers who see the challenges all people who are displaced and resettled experience, and who will join us in this work of coming alongside all refugee families, not just those arriving from one country.
How can I open my home to provide temporary housing?
Thanks for asking! We’re in need of a small number of host homes in the Portland Metro area for those being resettled. Ideal locations are in East Portland (NE and N Portland as well), or Washington Country.
The most helpful and ideal homes would be community members who have separate Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) or rental homes who would be willing to offer a 1 year lease at a discounted rate. This longer term sustainable option would be very helpful to these newly arriving families.
We are also looking for separate ADUs or rental homes available for a short term (1-3 months) donation or at reduced cost.
I am fluent in: (Farsi, Arabic, Dari, Urdu, Pashto, or another language!)… how can I help?
Often, recently resettled families need assistance with filling out paperwork or communication that requires technical language and can easily be misunderstood. If you would like to assist in helping a family with different needs that may require an interpreter, please fill out our Volunteer Form, and select the Interpreter option.
I’m a business owner and would like to partner. What do you need?
One of our favorite things is seeing the creative ways that people show up to offer something unique to help serve this need. Restaurants can provide meals for families. Mechanics could offer car repairs. Clothing stores could supply new items such as winter coats. Businesses with warehouse space could allow increased capacity to store restart kits. If you have any idea on how your business might be able to fill a practical need, please let us know.
Funding is a significant need so that we can continue to operate and provide essential services to refugees such as mentorship, temporary housing, distribution of kits, coordination of volunteer efforts, etc.. If you would like to sponsor this work financially, or provide a matching grant, this would help meet significant needs. Some businesses also use their platform to host fundraisers or donate proceeds, which can provide both financial assistance and also spread awareness that can inspire others in the community to respond as well.
How can my faith community or business host a collection day / drive?
Thanks for asking! Send us an email at email@example.com, with “Host Collection Day” in the subject line. We are scheduling collection days for restart kits and gift cards through 2022.
Are there any opportunities for things to do right now if I cannot commit to volunteering long-term?
This work is made possible through our Monthly Giving Community. This is a collective effort, and through a small, monthly donation, you can scale our response in coming alongside refugee families. We see the power of what $10 or $25 per month can do when we respond together. As part of our Monthly Giving Community, you’ll receive regular email updates about the ways we’re supporting our new neighbors together.
Is my donation tax-deductible?
Yes. You’ll receive a tax receipt when making a financial contribution or giving in-kind donations.
I’m a photographer or videographer and would like to make a documentary.
Thank you for your enthusiasm to create awareness around all that those being resettled go through. We appreciate your heart and intent.
In order to protect the identity, safety, and dignity of these families, we do not allow photo or video documentaries, and are unable to match volunteers who hope to document our refugee friend’s lives in this way.
We work with volunteer photographers to take family photos of those who have been resettled, and occasionally, those families want to support this work through sharing their photos and stories with our community. Most of the time though, we do not share. We are committed to not exploiting those we serve and only sharing the stories of those resettled in ways that protect and honor them.
I don’t live in Portland, Oregon – how can I find out about refugee resettlement programs in my area?
There are nine national resettlement agencies, all of which have offices across the country. We recommend doing a Google search with your city name and “refugee resettlement.”
Below are the nine national agencies who hold federal agreements to resettle refugees:
Church World Service, Ethiopian Community Development Council, Episcopal Migration Ministries, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, International Rescue Committee, US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and World Relief Corporation.
If one of these agencies has an office in your city, send an email to find out what they need. While there are many other non-profit organizations that serve the refugee community, this is a great place to start!