The IRC in Boise, ID
The International Rescue Committee provides opportunities for refugees, asylees, victims of human trafficking, survivors of torture, and immigrants seeking citizenship 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 Boise and other offices across the country, the IRC helps them to rebuild their lives.
Who are refugees, and why are they arriving in Boise?
Refugees are people fleeing violence and persecution—in DR Congo, Burma, Somalia, and other countries in crisis. They are seeking safety and the chance to move their lives forward.
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.
Each year, the IRC in Boise formally consults with the State Refugee Coordinator, medical service providers who work with refugees, the Boise City Police, the Boise and Meridian School Districts and the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, to make sure our civic systems can support all the refugees we hope to welcome. We meet quarterly with Governor Otter’s office as well.
We also solicit feedback from the general public in Boise through a quarterly open community forum held at the Ada County Courthouse or City Hall (contact Idaho Office for Refugees to get the next date / time / location).
What are refugees’ immediate needs?
When refugees first arrive in Boise, they have left everything—from their families to their homes to their household goods—behind. They have many immediate basic needs. The IRC relies on community donations such as:
- Hygiene items: diapers, laundry detergent, bodywash / shampoo, feminine supplies
- Household furniture: https://goo.gl/forms/YQPCxFki5ucJnifV2
- Winter clothing items: coats, hats, gloves, long underwear (seasonal donation - not year round due to storage limitations)
- Refurbished Laptop Computers: These items prove critical in today’s market for job search and retention
- Cars and gently-used or refurbished bicycles
We also are incredibly grateful for the many community volunteers who step forward to provide direct assistance to refugees over the course of their first days, serving as:
- Family mentors
- Volunteers to screen youth to match them with existing youth services in the Valley
- Volunteers to run small women’s social field trip
- See the "Volunteer Opportunities" page for more information
How does the IRC help refugees in Boise?
The IRC in Boise helps refugees remake their lives. We teach them what to expect in the U.S., which includes the mundane, like operating washing machines and ovens, to the profound, like what is credit and what are U.S. laws. We teach refugees to advocate for themselves to get and keep jobs. We teach employers about the strengths that refugee employees bring. We teach U.S. history to refugees seeking to pass the citizenship exam and become U.S. citizens.
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 Boise:
- 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.
What services does the IRC provide to the wider community?
Local community members in Boise can engage with the IRC through multiple fora. We provide:
- Immigration services to all members of the community who need them in different places across the state
- Annual calendar of events open to the public
- Refugee 101 presentations to civic, church, school and other groups
- Refugee speakers to describe personal experiences
- Refugee services Q&A
- Policy briefings on areas of high interest in refugee resettlement
- Contact between service providers and qualified interpreters
- Volunteer socials and Information/Orientation sessions
- Internship Programs
How can I help refugees in Boise?
There are many ways that you can get involved with the IRC’s work in Boise. 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 (https://www.facebook.com/IRCboise/), and ask others to do the same!
Other Ways to Get Involved: Employ refugees or connect us to affordable housing options.
What do refugees contribute to Boise?
Refugees give Boise perspectives from all over the world. They give us food, goods and jobs in their thriving local businesses. Refugees give us music and art, which were so richly displayed at World Refugee Day and the World Village Festival. Refugees give Boise a richness of spirit, and the constant opportunity to learn.
Seeing before reading: free eye clinic empowers English-language learners
Kate and Jeff Gibbons of Elmore County Eyecare bring a free eye clinic to the IRC in Boise, fitting almost 30 refugees and immigrants with a new pair of glasses.
Employment & economic wellbeing jumps into 2020
Here's what you should know about these emerging programs empowering refugees and immigrants in Idaho.
Give the "Gift of Choice" this holiday season
Celebrate the holiday season by empowering newly-arrived refugee families with the gift of choice: donate gift cards to the IRC in Boise!
Refugees are vibrant, smart, caring, amazing human beings. They are resilient. They have survived violence and protracted waits in refugee camps. They bring with them all the creativity and learning that helped them survive extreme hardship that most of us are privileged enough to have never suffered. Refugees are Idahoans, like the rest of us, and are part of what makes Idaho a great place.Julianne Donnelly TzulJulianne Donnelly Tzul is director of the IRC's Boise office.
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