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Refugee and Immigrant Volunteer Summit in Richmond

On Saturday, November 10th, 76 current and potential community volunteers attended the Refugee and Immigrant Volunteer Summit in Richmond. Co-hosted by Commonwealth Catholic Charities, Church World Service, International Rescue Committee, and ReEstablish Richmond, this was the second event of a  two-day series. The first day—designed for volunteer leaders of community, faith and civic organizations—was generously hosted by the Baptist General Association of Virginia on October 7th.

Speaker Elham Khairi engages the audience during her anti-bias exercise. Photo: Maura Sinnenberg/ReEstablish Richmond

Elham Khairi, the IRC in Richmond’s Community Health Program Coordinator, started the day leading a powerful anti-bias exercise. Kate Ayers, ReEstablish Richmond’s Executive Director, followed with an informative presentation on volunteer boundaries and encouraging self-sufficiency for those we serve.

All participants enjoyed a delicious lunch thanks to a grant from the Bob and Anna Lou Schaberg Fund at the Virginia Nonprofit Housing Coalition. Breakout sessions gave everyone the chance to attend small-group discussions on topics related to their areas of interest or volunteer focus. Facilitated by the IRC in Richmond’s Volunteer Coordinator Sharon Singer, the groups were led by community leaders, volunteers, professional consultants, and agency employees. Topics were: Working with the Afghan Community, Working with the Congolese Community (the two largest populations resettled in Richmond in 2018), Immigration Services, Teaching and Tutoring English Language Learners, Volunteer Best Practices, Public Library Services, and Resettlement Services.

Participants of the Refugee and Immigrant Volunteer Summit recite the Oath of Compassion. Photo: Sharon Singer/IRC

The IRC in Richmond’s Caseworker Najebullah Yusufi, Casework and Education Specialist Zina Bakha, and Employment Specialist C’Asha Faltz led the Resettlement Services small group discussion. They gave an overview of the resettlement process including the services provided, what resettlement agencies provide and what they rely on partner agencies to provide, and the importance of timely placement in first jobs. Most attendees were already actively volunteering with resettled families and asked thoughtful questions during the discussion.  

Thanks to the impressive participation and overwhelmingly positive feedback, the organizers are exploring the possibility of an expanded summit. To stay informed, follow the IRC in Richmond on Facebook or email VolunteerRichmond [at] rescue.org