The IRC in Denver and Highlands United Methodist Church have joined forces once again to welcome a co-sponsored refugee family of three from Venezuela. With hushed anticipation and a hand-drawn welcome sign at the ready, the group of volunteer co-sponsors stood ready at Denver International Airport’s main terminal to receive the family on their journey towards a fresh start in Denver.
For Eduardo, Yulia, and daughter Sophia, the moment marked the end of an arduous journey to escape the humanitarian crisis in their homeland — one fraught with uncertainty, insecurity, and danger at seemingly every turn. By deciding to leave their borders in search of a new life, the family joined 7.5 million other Venezuelans who collectively make up the largest group of displaced people worldwide. While the family arrived bleary-eyed from a sleepless flight (their first time on a plane) and 12-hour Houston layover, the last leg proved the easiest in a journey that for many involves clandestine treks through lawless passages like the Darien Gap.
Understanding that no transition is ever easy, the community sponsor group greeted the family with warm smiles and a hot meal of Venezuelan arepas. IRC staff provided phones and essential cleaning supplies, while the sponsors distributed groceries and toiletries for the week. Using a mix of Spanish and hand gestures, the community sponsors conveyed their warmth and hospitality while explaining their role as informal guides for the family’s initial adjustment period.
Community sponsors like these take an active role in providing support and community navigation during refugee families’ first few weeks in the US, and many form bonds that last for years to come. As community members driven by curiosity and a penchant for serving others, these volunteer sponsors represent an invaluable resource for new arrivals to understand the laws, systems, and cultural norms in their new home.
"At the IRC in Denver, we take immense pride in the unwavering support and collaboration we receive from the local community,” says Humayoon Milad, IRC Community Engagement Manager. “With the dedication and generosity of incredible organizations like Highlands United Methodist Church, we are able to offer refugees the opportunity to rebuild their lives and discover hope in their new surroundings."
The IRC in Denver currently serves over 2600 refugees and asylees escaping conflict and persecution from over 30 nations worldwide. The long-term impact our work has in these people’s lives is made possible through partnerships that bridge community and culture on the path from harm to home.
We extend our deepest gratitude to all those involved in this heartwarming effort, and we invite the community to continue supporting the IRC in Denver's mission to create a welcoming environment for refugees in the city we call home.