Refugee families in Baltimore have been hit very hard by this pandemic; most are employed in industries that have been massively curtailed and 40% of IRC’s working adults have been laid off since March. Many families have expressed food insecurity and isolation, lacking the technology to connect. With the help of local community partners, the IRC in Baltimore has been supporting families through the crisis.
In 2014, Luz fled violence in Honduras with her three children to start a new life in the U.S. In March of this year, Luz’s oldest daughter lost her job when a colleague was diagnosed with COVID-19 and Luz’s hours were cut at her janitorial company. The family could not afford to pay rent or buy food.
As part of the pandemic response initiative, the IRC connected Luz to food pantries, free meal sites, grocery deliveries and a prepaid Amazon card so the family could purchase additional household items. The IRC’s case management services also connected Luz to a full-time job and SNAP benefits. Of the ordeal, Luz said, “This virus has taken away a lot of people including some close friends, so we are feeling very impacted…I am blessed by God to have been able to come across an organization that has supported me this way.”
An interrupted education is often a hallmark of the refugee experience, so at 17 years of age, Konan enrolled in 10th grade at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Baltimore City. Konan and his mother, originally from Cote d’Ivoire, were resettled by the IRC in Baltimore at the beginning of the school year, but the March 2020 closure of Baltimore City Public Schools put Konan’s education on hold, yet again.
Konan was enjoying his classes, new friends, and learning English when the pandemic hit. Although some students received laptops from the school, Konan was among those who did not. Thankfully, the IRC’s youth team distributed tablets to four refugee students, including Konan. “I was worried that I will be behind, and I will not finish my school assignments on time,” Konan explained. “I am so grateful to the IRC for supporting me during this difficult time. Now I can participate in online learning and be at the same phase with other students.”
To date, 85 refugee families like Luz and Konan have received services to help them stay afloat. The IRC has helped them open bank accounts, file taxes to receive CARES Act stimulus benefits or claim unemployment insurance. Through these efforts—combined with donations from individuals in the community and philanthropic organizations — families have received more than $46,000 to cover rent, phone bills, food, transportation and other expenses. Thirteen families have also received laptops so students and job seekers can access online learning or attend virtual job interviews.
If you or someone you know would like to request services from the IRC, please call 410-327-1885, ext. 111 or fill out this form online. We are usually able to respond to inquiries within 2-3 days.
If you would like to consider supporting our clients and work during this crisis, we encourage you to consider making a financial donation to our office or purchasing Visa gift cards from our Amazon Wishlist to be sent directly to individual refugee clients.