The U.S. government responded to this past year’s crises by welcoming 76,000 people forced to flee Afghanistan—the largest evacuation of its kind since the Vietnam War—and committing to accepting 100,000 refugees from Ukraine, as well as raising the refugee resettlement ceiling to 125,000 for fiscal year 2022. Those fleeing Afghanistan and Ukraine joined a population of approximately 32.5M refugees (as of mid-2022) who have been displaced from their home countries. Other countries with significant representation within this group include Syria, Venezuela, and South Sudan.
As a way of tackling the ongoing displacement crisis and issues faced by these clients, the IRC is focusing on community engagement to help with the integration of resettled refugees into our local communities. One pathway that we believe will help to increase refugee integration and success, as well as resettlement agencies’ capacity and long-term sustainability, is through the Community Sponsorship, or Co-Sponsor, model.
What is Community Sponsorship?
Community Sponsorship is a shared endeavor. Small groups, or Co-Sponsor Teams, within the community work together to prepare for and welcome a refugee family to their local area. This model relies on harnessing the power of a private/public partnership between community volunteers and our agency to ensure the independence and self-sufficiency of our new neighbors.
Co-Sponsor Teams will play a key role in helping refugees resettle into their new community. Community sponsors advance the role of communities in the protection, resettlement, and integration of refugees and other vulnerable populations. The Richmond community and all of Virginia has an incredible history of investment in the lives of refugees, and we want to continue to leverage this support through new programming so that we might provide the best experience to new arrivals. As a Co-Sponsor Team, local community members commit to providing, in a non-legally binding agreement, clearly defined financial and in-kind contributions, and the majority of core services to support a refugee’s arrival in partnership with the IRC.
Benefits of Community Sponsorship
Not only does forming a Co-Sponsor Team offer you a chance to bring positive change to your community, but you are also becoming a part of a larger global community that is helping to bring awareness to the plight of people seeking refuge. The hope is for Co-Sponsorship to serve as a tool for more integrated and educated communities across the country.
True integration is not something that can be taught or learned from books, but rather it requires personal interaction and building relationships with people in the community. Co-Sponsorship helps to create these personal connections, and to give them the structure and technical assistance so that they might grow and strengthen.
With Community Sponsors, refugees receive far more support and for longer periods of time, and as a result, the quality of life for refugee families is immeasurably enhanced. The value of helping refugees to establish a firm foundation on which to build their new lives cannot be overstated.
- Receive Food & Clothing
- Access Financial Assistance
- Access Medical Care
- Navigate the Community
- Find Jobs
- Build a Future
How do I start a Co-Sponsorship team in Richmond?
This relatively new program is growing every single year. In 2022, over 170 IRC clients were supported by community sponsors nationally, many of which came through right here in the Richmond region. We are hoping to see a large growth in this number through 2023 and would love for you to be a part of that.
- Be located within 100 miles of the IRC in Richmond. Groups can be in Richmond or some surrounding cities.
- Raise $3,000 to support the family you will be working with. These funds will go directly towards larger costs for families such as rental support.
- Have a group of 6 - 10 dedicated volunteers. ***If you are interested in forming a Co-Sponsor Team but do not have a group of 6 or more people, please fill out the interest form and IRC staff can help you form a team.
- Provide in-kind donations for household and personal needs.
- Commit to six months of on-going education, mentorship and client support.
- All volunteers must submit a background check and proof of COVID-19 vaccinations.
- Partake in regular check-in sessions with IRC staff.
- Core group representatives sign a non-legally binding Co-Sponsorship agreement with IRC.
- Visit https://www.rescue.org/united-states/richmond-va to learn more about resettlement and IRC programs in Virginia
- Submit an IRC Richmond Co-Sponsor Team Interest Form
- Attend an information session with IRC's Community Sponsorship Coordinator
- Complete an IRC Richmond Co-Sponsor Team Application (Separate application for those outside of a 50-mile radius of the IRC Richmond office)
- Review the IRC Co-Sponsorship Manual
For more information about Co-Sponsorship opportunities with the IRC in Richmond, please contact Community Sponsorship Coordinator at [email protected].