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How to volunteer in San Diego

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Thank you for your interest in assisting refugees, asylees, and low-income families in our community. By volunteering with the IRC, you can share your unique experience and skills directly with IRC clients. Volunteer support is an integral part of the IRC's mission to provide opportunities for refugees to thrive in America. 

If you are looking for internship opportunities, please click here. 


The Volunteer Process:

  1. Review our volunteer positions below and choose 3 that best fit your interests, skills, and schedule.
  2. Complete a volunteer application by following this link. You will be contacted by the Volunteer Coordinator as needs arise for your chosen position.
  3. After your application is reviewed, you may be selected for an interview.
  4. Once the interview is confirmed and conducted, successful interviewees will complete the necessary background checks*. To protect our clients, we require background checks for all our volunteers, and we ask volunteers to make a $49 donation to cover associated costs. Currently, 92% of our funding goes directly to our clients, and your help to cover this cost allows us to continue providing the best service possible. This step can add 1-2 weeks to the process, but is typically very fast.
  5. Once cleared, you will attend a general orientation before training and scheduling the first day.

*You must be 18 years or older to volunteer and complete a background check. For High School Opportunities, please email VolunteerSD [at] Rescue.org or see our Youth Ambassador Program page.

Things to note:

  • Most positions require a 3 month volunteer commitment with 5 hours per week. If this is not feasible for you, please VolunteerSD [at] Rescue.org (subject: On-Call%20Inquiry) (email us) about our on-call opportunities.
  • Please email VolunteerSD [at] Rescue.org with questions.

Six Departments to Choose From

  1. Youth Programs
  2. Center for Financial Opportunity
  3. Immigration
  4. Food Security and Community Health
  5. Resettlement
  6. Administration 


Youth Programs

Program Description: The IRC Youth Programs provides academic assistance and productive extracurricular activities for refugee teens in high school and middle school, whose education has often been interrupted by war or years in refugee camps.

After School Tutor (High School)

Minimum 3 month commitment, Monday - Friday starting in September. 2:15-5:00PM at Crawford High School, Hoover High School. Saturday tutoring is held at the City Heights IRC Office 10am to 1pm.


Assist high school students with homework completion.


Experience working with youth (ages 13-18) in High school; Experience tutoring or working in an academic setting; Experience working in a diverse, multi-cultural setting; Experience working with refugees or English Language Learners.

Job Club Volunteer

Minimum 3 month commitment; One day a week from 2:15pm to 5:00pm at Hoover High School. 


Assist high school students in building resumes and cover letters; Help develop job search skills; Assist in completing online job applications; Provide support with Mock Interview days and workshops.  Encourage youth with good habits of professionalism, budgeting and banking. 


Experience working with youth (ages 14-20) in High School; Ability to multi task and work in a classroom setting.  Personable and able to communicate well with English Language Learners.  Strong understanding of effective resumes and cover letters.  Proficient in Microsoft Office and Google Suite.  Previous experience engaging and motivating youth.  Consistent attendance required.  

Higher Learning Navigator

Minimum 4 month commitment, minimum one day per week, Monday through Saturday, times vary, at IRC City Heights Office


Assist college students with assignments.


Expertise in typical college subjects: English, Math, Science. Previous experience with tutoring/ESL preferred.


Center for Financial Opportunity

Employment/Career Development

Program Description: The IRC helps newly arrived refugees find their first job in the US by teaching job search skills and coordinating with employers. For clients with a professional background, the IRC helps them re-enter their profession in a timely manner.

VESL Plus Computer Literacy Volunteer

City Heights (Fridays 1-3) or El Cajon (Mondays 9:30am - 11:30am or Wednesdays 12:30pm - 2:30pm). 3+ hours per week, minimum 3 month commitment.


Lead a group of 10-20 adult students in computer skills training to practice and achieve computer literacy skills. With weekly VESL objectives in mind, plan activities in line with Computer Literacy curriculum to engage students.


City Heights: English speaker, Swahili a plus. El Cajon: Bi-lingual English/Arabic speaker.  Both locations: Strong understanding of computers (Windows, Microsoft Office); Prior background in ESL preferred; Ability to work with clients of diverse backgrounds; Sense of humor and cultural sensitivity.

Front Desk Assistant

Minimum 3 month commitment, at least 6 hours per week (2 shifts), Mondays - Fridays, 8:30am-1pm and 1pm-5pm in the City Heights Office.


Extensive communication with clients both in-person and over the phone; Evaluating clients’ requests and directing them to relevant IRC services or staff; Updating the job leads database & JTAL google volunteer site to ensure all files are up-to-date; Providing general administrative and logistical support to CFO staff


Proficient in the use of computers and relevant programs such as Microsoft Office, Chrome, etc.; Personable with an ability to work within a multicultural environment; Effective communicator who is able to bridge the gap that is often presented by language barriers; Previous reception experience and/or Arabic, Farsi or Somali language abilities are a plus.


Microenterprise Program

Program Description: IRC's Microenterprise Program supports refugees to start and expand their own businesses by providing intensive technical assistance and access to capital. The IRC has aided in the start of over 272 business and 150 expansions.

All Microenterprise program positions are currently full, please check back soon!

Financial Education

Program Description: The Financial Education Program teaches clients the basics of the US financial system, encouraging good habits in budgeting, credit, taxes, and banking.

All Financial Education volunteer positions are currently full however internships are available.



Program Description: The IRC Immigration Department assists more than 2000 people each year in immigration matters. We help our clients apply for U.S. Citizenship, Permanent Resident Status, petition family members, family reunification, DACA, and much more.

Front Desk Assistant

Minimum 3 month commitment, minimum 9 hours a week. Shifts Available: Monday-Friday, 8:30am-1pm or 1pm-5pm in the City Heights Office. Please be aware that due to volunteer processing (i.e. interviews, background checks and trainings) volunteer term may not begin until 1 or 2 months from application submission.  


Greet and assist clients at high volume front desk, both in person and over the phone; maintain immigration caseworker calendar, scheduling and confirming client appointments; correspondence processing, database updates and maintenance, file making and management; assist the Immigration and Resettlement departments with various tasks, as needed. Opportunities for increased involvement and responsibilities are available on Supervisor’s discretion.


Preferred Qualifications:

Experience with Microsoft Office, Google Applications and Drive and multi-line telephones; customer service experience; proficiency in a second language (especially Amharic, Arabic, Dari, Farsi, French, Karen, Mandarin, Spanish, Somali, Swahili, Tagalog, Urdu or Vietnamese) is encouraged

Required Qualifications:

Attention to detail; Ability to take direction (written and oral) and to complete tasks independently; Ability to attend two day Immigration Training/Orientation in order to become familiar with Immigration services and procedures as well as volunteer duties and expectations (orientation will be coordinated with supervisor); Regular attendance is required.

Food Security and Community Health

Program Description: The IRC coordinates the City Heights Farmers’ Market on Saturdays from 9am to 1pm, and the Downtown El Cajon Farmers’ Market on Thursdays from 3pm to 7pm.

All Food Security positions are currently full, please check back soon!


Program Description: From greeting refugees at the airport and providing a safe, furnished apartment to registering children in school, the Resettlement Department's multi-lingual staff members assist new refugees in rebuilding their lives.

All Resettlement positions are currently full, please check back soon!


Department Overview: The IRC depends on volunteers, development, and nonprofit management to complement our services, with more than 400 volunteers throughout the year. There is a wide variety of tasks for volunteers, including tutoring, employment assistance, and tax help.

All Administration positions are currently full, please check back soon!