The IRC in Baltimore, MD
The International Rescue Committee provides opportunities for refugees, asylees, victims of human trafficking, survivors of torture, and other immigrants to thrive in America. Each year, thousands of people, forced to flee violence and persecution, are welcomed by the people of the United States into the safety and freedom of America. These individuals have survived against incredible odds. The IRC works with government bodies, civil society actors, and local volunteers to help them translate their past experiences into assets that are valuable to their new communities. In Baltimore and other offices across the country, the IRC helps them to rebuild their lives.
Who are refugees?
Refugees are people fleeing violence and persecution—in Syria, Iraq, Eritrea, and other countries in crisis. They are seeking safety and the chance to move their lives forward.
Why are refugees arriving in Baltimore?
The United States has a long tradition of sheltering those fleeing conflict and persecution. Once refugees have been identified by the United Nations refugee agency and cleared for resettlement, the U.S. government works with the IRC and eight other national resettlement agencies to help them restart their lives in America. Out of the nearly 20 million refugees in the world, fewer than 1 percent are considered for resettlement worldwide.
Refugees may be placed in a city where they have relatives or friends, or where there’s an established community that shares their language or culture. Other considerations include the cost of living and a community’s ability to provide medical services. However, as legal U.S. residents, refugees may live in any city and state they choose.
Although even many locals may not know it, Baltimore has a long history of being a destination for refugees – from people fleeing pogroms in the early 20th century to Soviet refugees in the 1980s and 90s. In fact, Old Bay Seasoning, Baltimore’s iconic spice, was invented by a refugee who had fled Nazi-occupied Germany.
How does the IRC help refugees in Baltimore?
Our programs are designed to ensure refugees thrive in America--whether ensuring children are enrolled in school, adults become self-reliant through employment or starting businesses, or families receive acute medical care they need to recover from trauma or illness. The IRC helps those in need to rebuild their lives and regain control of their future in their new home community.
Refugees are greeted and welcomed at the airport by IRC case workers and volunteers to ensure their transition is as comfortable as possible. The IRC also makes sure newly arrived refugees receive:
- A furnished home
- Help with rent
- Health care
- Nutritious, affordable food
- English language classes
- Help building job, computer, and financial literacy skills
- Education for their children
- Social services and community support
- Legal services towards residency and citizenship
Our programs in Baltimore:
- Resettlement: Meeting the basic needs for food, shelter and legal rights in the early, critical stages of resettlement.
- Economic Empowerment: Protecting, supporting and improving household livelihoods and financial security.
- Community Integration and Development: Strengthening communities and preparing individuals to participate fully in American society.
- Health and Wellness: Promoting wellness and ensuring access to healthcare services that address physical and psychological needs.
- Protection: Promoting durable solutions and ensuring life-saving protection of vulnerable populations.
- Children, Youth and Education: Providing educational and developmental opportunities that build the essential academic, personal and social skills needed to succeed.
What services does the IRC provide to the wider community?
The IRC helps to strengthen the social and economic health of Baltimore City and the wider metropolitan area. It takes an active role in educating and engaging the community about refugees and local issues involving humanitarian migrants. Inasmuch as possible given resources, staff members visit community and religious organizations, schools and universities to inform Baltimoreans about their newest community members. Our hundreds of volunteers and interns each year develop a global perspective rooted in the local while providing crucial services to our office.
Some of our services are available to non-refugees. The Immigration Program is available to other immigrants and Americans requiring help with immigration petitions. We have opened the IDA homebuying program to Americans and other immigrants of low-to-moderate income. Our New Roots Program has partnered with local organizations so that refugees and Americans can garden side by side.
How can I help refugees in Baltimore?
There are many ways that you can get involved with the IRC’s work in Baltimore. You can:
Donate: Give a tax-deductible financial contribution either via the website or sent to our office.
Volunteer Process and Opportunities: Read the steps you need to go through to become an IRC volunteer and see our current list of volunteer opportunities.
Internship Opportunities: See our current list of internship opportunities.
New or Gently Used Items Needed for Refugees: We’re collecting items for newly arrived refugees. See how you can help.
Spread the Word: Consider hosting your own Fundraising Campaign (on- or offline). Stay connected via our newsletter, follow us on Facebook, and ask others to do the same!
Other Ways to Get Involved: Employ refugees, connect us to affordable housing options.
What do refugees contribute to Baltimore?
Once they acclimate to their new environment, refugees often thrive and contribute to their communities, building careers, purchasing homes, gaining citizenship.
After Fleeing Persecution in Uganda for Being Gay, This Refugee Still Wants to Help Others
Unlike many refugees coming into the United States seeking escape from the horrors of war or natural disasters, Sharifa was forced to flee Uganda because she is gay and had become an LGBT rights advocate. In her country, such activities were illegal and punishable by long prison terms or worse. Sharifa and her family began their new lives in Baltimore in February 2016, when they were greeted at BWI airport by representatives from the International Rescue Committee. “I admit I did not know much about IRC,” she says, “and was surprised at how much support we received.”
Photo Essay: Dinner with a Syrian Family in Baltimore
Farrah Arnold, an area photographer, spent meal time with several Baltimore area refugee families, photographing the quiet family time centered around the dinner table. This photo essay features the Almshhad family from Syria. After their neighbor's house in Syria was bombed, the family of eight fled in the middle of the night with their car headlights off. Two kind men who helped guide them were later killed. The family was resettled in Baltimore in August of this year after several years in a refugee camp in Jordan.
How You Can Help Refugees in Baltimore
Here's how you can help refugees in Baltimore.
We succeed in assisting refugees only with the strong support of the various communities in Central Maryland. Refugee families benefit greatly from community volunteers, advocates, and donors. I urge you to become active in our efforts to assist refugees to establish a safe and secure life here in Baltimore and the surrounding areas (Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Frederick, Harford and Howard Counties).Ruben ChandrasekarRuben Chandrasekar is director of the IRC's Baltimore office.
refugees, asylees, victims of human trafficking and other immigrants in the United States to receive services.
The IRC offers high-quality, low-cost immigration legal services and citizenship assistance in 22 cities across the U.S.Learn more about immigration
newly arrived refugees who have been offered sanctuary by the United States to resettle in their new communities.
The United States has a long tradition of offering refuge to those fleeing persecution and war.See where we work in the U.S.
refugees from East Asia to resettle in the United States through the IRC Resettlement Support Centers in Thailand and Malaysia.
We help refugees prepare paperwork, facilitate interviews with U.S government officials, and, once they have been accepted for resettlement, schedule medical screening and take cultural orientation classes.Learn more