Each year, the U.S. offices of the International Rescue Committee host special programs and events to help refugees during the holiday season.
These refugees already face the daunting task of rebuilding their lives. Giving them a warm welcome is especially important this year as the Trump adminstration sabatoges America's long tradition of offering refugee to people feeing violence and persecution.
In the spirit of the season, here are eight ways Americans are spreading the holiday cheer to refugees in their communities. Look for the IRC office nearest you for more oportunities to help all year round.
1. Provide holiday gifts for refugee families
The IRC's family sponsorship program will match you with a refugee family for whom you can provide holiday gifts. You can present these gifts to your sponsored family at a multicultural holiday party or drop them off at an IRC office. The program is offered in several cities throughout the U.S., including Seattle, Sacramento, and Dallas. Visit their webpages for details.
Last year, IRC supporters in Texas provided over $45,000 worth of gifts to 346 newly arrived refugees.
Many offices partner with local business, where donors can choose an ornament from a "giving trees" or "giving wreaths" that list a gift needed by a specific refugee.
2. Open your home to refugees
You can be beacon of hope to refugees in temporary need of shelter by working with IRC partner Airbnb. In Denver, Airbnb host Susan Bailey has already hosted six refugees and families from Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and the Republic of Congo. Together they shared meals and stories about their cultures, and helped foster a richer, global community.
“Our part in the process, providing short-term housing while long-term housing is solidified for a refugee or refugee family, is actually quite easy,” Bailey said. “Above all, with so much uncertainty in their lives, we want to provide these new arrivals with a safe haven of comfort and warmth.”
3. Sign up to mentor a refugee family
Through the IRC’s volunteer program, you can mentor refugees as they find their footing in America. Last December, family mentor Jamie Utz from Boise took eight-year-old Muhammed Samatar, a refugee from Somalia, sledding for the first time.
"I wanted to be a part of helping someone make that transition a little bit easier and just feel like they’re welcome here,” Utz said. “It all comes down to just being a friend.”
4. Host a holiday feast
The IRC in Atlanta hosted its 16th annual Thanksgiving Feast last month. Along with partners and volunteers, they provided entertainment, fresh produce, and donated food that refugees could take home.
Many other IRC offices host Thanksgiving dinner each year, as well as winter celebrations in December and January.
5. Donate winter coats to refugee children
Some IRC offices accept donations of clothing and other items refugees need as they settle in to their new homes. In October, the IRC in Salt Lake City held its annual winter clothing distribution event, where over 50 volunteers provided almost $40,000 worth of winter clothing from community donors to 400 recently arrived refugees.
6. Shop for a cause
The IRC in Seattle invites holiday shoppers to find their gifts on SpreadLove2017.com and use the promo code “IRC” at checkout to receive a 5% discount and donate all proceeds to the IRC Seattle office. Seattle resident Tara Clark started the Spread Love movement earlier this year and has already generated more than $40,000 for nine local non-profits, including the IRC.
7. Give your loved ones a gift with meaning
Give a gift to friend and family that inspires and helps refugees around the world. Send an eCard or a printed card with your IRC Rescue Gift.
8. Donate to an IRC office near you
Make a donation today to support the IRC in our work helping refugee families in the United States. Find an office near you.
And don't forget: You may be able to double—or even triple—the impact of your generous donation with a matching gift from your company.
The IRC is grateful to people across the country who are making refugees welcome. There are many more ways you can get involved thoughout the year—learn more: how to help refugees in the U.S.