Refugees often run out of their homes with the shirts on their backs and end up fleeing their country of origin to save their lives. They run from war and persecution, often leaving behind family and friends. They are granted refugee status by the United Nations and cleared for entrance to the United States (U.S.) by our Department of Homeland Security.
When refugees arrive in the U.S., many come to the U.S. with minimal personal belongings. They are greeted at the airport by our staff--but before refugees even arrive--Catholic Charities staff and volunteers are busy at work preparing for them.
Welcome Committee Prepares for Refugees
The first preparations start with Pat Gillem, Catholic Charities volunteer coordinator for the refugee program. She contacts volunteers of the refugee welcoming committee, a group of volunteers that help set up apartments for new arrivals. “We have a shopping list of items including linens, pots and pans, silverware and other things you need for an apartment,” said Gillem. “Purchasing everything on the list takes about three to seven hours depending on family size. Volunteers help our staff save a lot of time.”
After volunteers collect the apartment goods, a Catholic Charities staff member will arrive to pay for the items. “Then volunteers go to the apartment to set everything up. This process takes about two hours," said Gillem.
The Most Rewarding Part
“Volunteering for the Catholic Charities refugee program is the most rewarding thing I've ever done,” said Constance, a Catholic Charities volunteer. “Helping those truly in need, leaves one with a feeling of hope. These refugees come from all parts of the world and are in desperate situations. Catholic Charities gives them an opportunity to succeed.”
Constance recently went above and beyond by purchasing a bouquet of flowers to place in an apartment she set up. She knew that a newly arriving refugee family had experienced a difficult ordeal. She wanted to provide some beauty, and maybe a little extra hope, for the start of their new journey.
“I can't recommend volunteering for the refugee program enough. It is something you will never regret,” said Constance.
You can help a refugee family get a warm welcome by volunteering, donating hygiene items or toys. Contact Pat Gillem at 602-749-4442 for more information.