Search form


Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in Georgia in 2020

The IRC in Atlanta is the largest refugee resettlement agency in Georgia. Since opening in 1979, we have welcomed more than 26,500 refugees from 67 countries to rebuild their lives in communities across the state.

Forced to switch to remote working in March 2020, the IRC in Atlanta has continued to provide core programming—including resettlement and case management services, youth and adult education classes, employment assistance, and immigration services—and in addition, has expanded services to include large-scale, mobile COVID-19 testing, ongoing delivery of food boxes, and the disbursement of emergency cash assistance, including CARES Act funding, to community members impacted by the pandemic.

COVID-19 Testing Project

The IRC-CORE team provide both Drive-Thru and Walk-Up Testing in Clarkston. Photo: IRC Atlanta

The IRC in Atlanta is partnering with CORE Response and the DeKalb County Board of Health to bring free, mobile Drive-Thru and Walk-Up COVID-19 Testing to Clarkston and the surrounding central DeKalb County area. Clarkston—known as the Ellis Island of the South—has been a first home to many newly-arriving refugees for decades.

Over 51 days of mobile COVID-19 testing between June and December 2020, the IRC-CORE team of former refugees—now green card holders and naturalized U.S. citizens—provided access to an incredible 10,275 self-administered tests, with interpretation available in more than 20 languages. This team has also provided 148 flu vaccinations in partnership with the DeKalb County Board of Health.

More than 10,000 COVID-19 tests provided in 2020

The mobile testing unit provides tests from 10am-4pm, Thu-Sat, at rotating locations and has been graciously hosted by several Clarkston apartment complexes, the Clarkston Campus of Georgia State University’s - Perimeter College, local places of worship, and local nonprofits, like Clarkston Community Center and Friends of Refugees. It has been a true community-wide effort to provide these 10,000+ tests.

The pre-Christmas IRC-CORE testing site at Clarkston Community Center saw a record number of 1,272 tests in two days—and more than 30 flu shots. 

"Thanks to our new American neighbors who are working on the frontlines, I believe we can and will crush this virus."

“The IRC-CORE-DeKalb County Board of Health partnership—which focuses on ensuring that those staffing the testing sites reflect the community itself, so the services are linguistically and culturally competent—reaches community members that the traditional medical community may not reach as effectively,” said the IRC in Atlanta’s Acting Executive Director, Justin Howell. “This mobile testing along with contact tracing is critical for ensuring community members are aware of their status and take the necessary steps to keep themselves, their families, and their communities safe and healthy. Thanks to our new American neighbors who are working on the frontlines, day after day providing this testing, I believe we can and will crush this virus."


Meet Members of the IRC-CORE Testing Team:

Our Healthcare Heroes—Robel, Omar and Christy at one of our Clarkston testing sites. Photo: IRC Atlanta

Dr. Omar Aziz, IRC-CORE DeKalb County Program Manager

Dr. Omar Aziz first came to Georgia through the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program in 2013 with his wife and two children, after living in Dubai for more than 12 years. A dentist in his native Iraq, Omar first joined the IRC in Atlanta team in 2015 as an Arabic interpreter for our youth programs. In 2017, Omar began leading the IRC's My New School program at DeKalb International Student Center, where he continues to welcome newly arrived refugee youth and their families and support them as they transition into American culture and the education system.⁠

Now a naturalized U.S. citizen, Dr. Omar also serves as the IRC-CORE DeKalb County Program Manager and with his ample medical background and deep connections in the refugee community, he is an invaluable asset to our IRC and CORE teams. We are incredibly proud of and grateful for his leadership in the fight against COVID-19 in Georgia.

Robel Woldeab, Tester/Interpreter

22-year-old Robel Woldeab has lived in America for just over a year and already is making a positive impact in his new community! Originally from Eritrea, Robel came to Georgia with his five siblings in 2019 to reunite with their father, who was granted asylum in the U.S. seven years prior. The IRC in Atlanta helped the family when they first arrived and Robel quickly connected with the IRC’s Connect 2 Success Program Coordinator, Sharita Khatiwada, to create a plan to continue his education. Robel earned his diploma in Nursing from Asmara College of Health Sciences in Eritrea and is currently working with Ms. Sharita to have his transcripts evaluated, with the goal of earning his Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) in the future.

Thrilled to be working in the medical field again and building his experience, Robel is working full-time as a tester and Tigrinya/Amharic interpreter for CORE at multiple COVID-19 testing sites around Atlanta, including the IRC-CORE mobile sites in Clarkston.

Christy Nyeing, Tester/Interpreter  

20-year-old Christy Nyeing first came to America through the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program in February 2011 with her father and three younger siblings, after living in a refugee camp in Thailand for six years. While attending Clarkston High School, Christy was enrolled in the IRC in Atlanta’s Youth Futures afterschool program where she received homework help and college readiness support, including touring college campuses and assistance with applications.

Now a naturalized U.S. citizen and sophomore at Georgia State University, Christy is majoring in Public Health and working full-time as a tester and Burmese interpreter for CORE at multiple COVID-19 testing sites around Atlanta, including the IRC-CORE mobile sites in her adopted hometown of Clarkston. In the future, Christy hopes to earn her Master’s in Public Health with a concentration in Global Health and her dream job is to work as a Health Educator in developing nations. Christy was recently profiled by ELLE Online!


Emergency Assistance Program

The IRC in Atlanta disbursed more than $453,000 in direct cash assistance to community members impacted by COVID-19 for rent, mortgage, utilities, childcare, medical expenses and grocery items between March and November 2020. While we primarily serve DeKalb County community members—including refugees, immigrants and native-born Americans—our support is available to all in need.

More than $450,000 of emergency cash assistance disbursed

The IRC in Atlanta’s Emergency Assistance Program is made possible through private funding—including more than $23,000 raised by generous individuals—and CARES Act funds that came through local government.


Food Distribution Program

As soon as the pandemic hit Georgia in March, the IRC in Atlanta’s New Roots and Logistics programs began to partner on weekly food distribution for refugee families who had lost income and/or employment, and individuals who had tested positive for COVID-19 and were self-isolating at home. Between March and December, IRC staff delivered 514 Food Boxes to families—more than 10,500lbs of food. Often Food Boxes contained produce from Clarkston school gardens, grown by high school and elementary students enrolled in the IRC’s New Roots programming.

More than 650 Food Boxes delivered in 2020

In lieu of our annual Thanksgiving Feast for newly arrived refugee families, the IRC in Atlanta and our partners at Memorial Drive Ministries hosted a contactless Food Drive to provide food boxes to Clarkston families in time for Thanksgiving. Thanks to generous donations from community members, we were able to assemble and distribute more than 140 Thanksgiving Food Boxes full of cooking essentials, pantry staples and storage produce.


To learn more about the work of the IRC in Atlanta and for information on how you can get involved with the IRC as a donor or volunteer, please contact Development Director, Marian Dickson, at Marian.Dickson [at] Rescue.org or 601-310-3174.

Stay connected to the IRC in AtlantaLike us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram for announcements and upcoming events!