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2020 Year in Review

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Resettling in a new community is always challenging, but in 2020, the pandemic added additional hurdles for our newest neighbors. Despite these obstacles, our program participants perservered and continued working toward their goals. And thanks to support from our community, hundreds of refugee and immigrant community members received services they need to thrive here in Washington. Join us in looking back at some highlights of our work together from the past year - and in looking forward to a new year filled with hope, health, and welcome for all. 

Over 1,700 cloth face masks sewn by community members have been distributed to IRC clients and community members since March, 2020. Photo: Yamada/IRC

Over 1,000 community members offered their time and talents as volunteers. For the first time, volunteers particpated remotely - tutoring children, sewing face masks, facilitating citizenship classes, providing professional mentorship, and joining in on virtual events and celebrations. You showed incredible adaptability, learning new systems and finding ways to connect with your new neighbors despite the distance. 

You helped welcome 81 families resettle to our community throughout the year, from places like Afghanistan, Myanmar, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, and Ukraine. You shared resources, ensuring that newcomers were able to stay in their homes when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. You banded together to gather winter coats and pantry staples, helping equip newcomers' long-term homes.

This year, COVID-19 created a new landscape for job seekers - posing challenges such as mass layoffs, hiring freezes, and business closures. In response, you shared time and resources, helping 350 refugees and newcomers develop their professional skills and find fulfilling careers. 250 people accessed COVID-19 related services, such as resilience loans and COVID-19 safety information. While staff worked from home, services continued and more than 84 newcomers built financial capabilities, helping them plan for the future. 

Health was at the forefront during 2020. For 72 people with critical health or safety needs, you helped make care and resources acceptable through the IRC’s growing long-term case management and wellness services for vulnerable families. Caseworkers made assesment of COVID-19 related needs for 225 households, reached 600 people with in-language text message updates, and launched outreach campaigns to ensure immunization information is accessible and linguistically appropriate. 

Students in the greater Seattle area shifted to online learning in the spring, and despite the challenges have continued to find joy in learning. WIth your support, 95 newly-arrived youth enrolled in school – which for many, comes after years of inconsistent educational experiences. You helped 445 young people gain skills and confidence needed to thrive in their new communities, first through afterschool tutoring and school break camps - and later through an all-virtual cirriculum which included leadership development, college & career readiness, summers school and one-on-one tutoring. 

This new reality of remote school, work, social lives, and essential services exposed the so-called "digital divide". To address the growing need for access to critical resources and skill-building opportunties related to technology, we launched a new digital equity initative. To address this issue for students, who shifted to remote learning in April, you came together as individuals, coworkers, community groups, and colleagues to donate remote learning supplies for over 400 students.

With your support we grew the IRC’s programs for human trafficking survivors, helping more than 95 survivors find safety and access critical services in the past year. These anti-trafficking efforts also reached external community members and organizations through 29 different events and trainings.

And finally, you helped nearly 498 refugee and immigrant community members become permanent residents or naturalized U.S. citizens. Over 200 students attended virtual Civics and ESL classes, in preperation for their naturalization tests

2020 made it clear that it takes all of us working together - neighbors helping neighbors - to create a welcoming, supportive, and inclusive community. As we look toward the new year and prepare to welcome more newcomers to Washington than ever before, your partnership and support remain vital. While our mission remains the same, the new year offers hope of a more welcoming set of policies for refugees, asylum seekers, and immigrants in the United States. By raising our voicesvolunteering our time, and donating what resources we can, we work toward a future where all families have the opportunity to thrive in our community.