The IRC in Seattle, WA
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 Seattle 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 Seattle?
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.
How does the IRC help refugees in Seattle?
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 Seattle:
- 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.
- New Roots: Focus on food access and nutritional needs of families upon arrival in the U.S., and builds on the agricultural experience of many new refugee and immigrant families by providing access to land, materials, and education for program participants to grow healthy food.
What services does the IRC provide to the wider community?
The IRC provides Immigration and Citizenship Services to the wider community, giving both refugees but also other immigrants assistance in a range of routine immigration matters, such as applying for “green cards”, employment authorization and citizenship.
The IRC’s New Roots program is available to all qualifying immigrants in Seattle, enabling them to celebrate their heritage and nourish themselves and their neighbors by planting strong roots—literally—in their new communities.
How can I help refugees in Seattle?
There are many ways that you can get involved with the IRC’s work in Seattle. You can:
Donate Make a one-time or monthly tax-deductible gift via our website. Or, launch your own fundraiser via Crowdrise or Facebook. Your contributions directly support local IRC programs, helping refugees, immigrants, and survivors or trafficking who are rebuilding their lives our community.
Participate Join IRC at community events throughout the year, such as Winter Welcome Festival, World Refugee Day - ARTvocacy, and the Rebuilding Lives Annual Dinner. Events raise critical resources to support newcomers and visibly reassure refugee families that Washington welcomes them. Join us for Rebuilding Lives Annual Dinner on Oct 4th.
Advocate Call on policy makers to support refugees, immigrants, and survivors of trafficking. Please email, call, or write your elected officials with a message of support today!
Educate With knowledge of refugee issues, you can help dispel misunderstanding about refugees within your own community by engaging in conversation and posting on social media or anywhere you see an opportunity to give accurate information. Resources to get you started include: IRC’s Refugees in America Refugee Council USA UNHCR Global Trends Report
Assemble a Donation Drive Team up with friends, family, or colleagues to collect essential items - household goods, kitchenware, school supplies, job readiness kits, or gift cards - for newly-arrived families. Click here for current donation needs and guidelines, or email us with questions.
Volunteer Volunteers and interns are integral to the IRC's work in Seattle. Visit our volunteer page to learn about the different ways to get involved. Email us to join our "on-call" volunteer team or attend a Volunteer Orientation to join as a long-term volunteer or intern.
Employ Newcomers The IRC’s economic empowerment program helps newcomers prepare for Seattle’s job market and work toward their career goals in the U.S. Contact the IRC if interested in offering employment or professional development opportunities to newcomers.
Open Your Home The IRC and Airbnb are working together to welcome refugees to the Seattle area -- and we would love for you to join us! Open Homes lets you share your extra space on a temporary basis with refugee families and survivors of trafficking as they transition into their new home and community.
Connect IRC to Affordable Housing Housing stability is critical to the health and wellness of all families. We greatly appreciate information on, or connections to, long-term affordable housing options for IRC clients.
What do refugees contribute to Seattle?
Once they acclimate to their new environment, refugees often thrive and contribute to their communities, building careers, purchasing homes, gaining citizenship.
Back-to-school supply & backpack drive
Help newcomer youth get ready to start their school year by building and sharing back-to-school learning kits! The IRC is seeking learning kits for elementary and secondary school students, to ensure they have the tools they need to succeed as they return to school this fall.
Helping newcomers navigate the digital world
A cohort of digital tutors have joined to help bridge the digital divide that faces newcomers.
Fighting hunger among newcomers in the United States
High rates of unemployment and Covid-19 infection among New American community members has contributed heavily to lack of stable access to adequate amounts of nutritious food . Refugees and immigrants have been some of the hardest hit populations in the country, disproportionately experiencing food and nutritional insecurity due to their high rates of employment in “gig economy” and other job sectors like food, hotel, and health which have been heavily impacted by the pandemic. Help new American communities combat hunger with a gift to IRC's food security programs in the U.S.
We couldn’t do this critical work without help from the Greater Seattle community. For forty years, we have helped thousands of refugees, immigrants, and survivors of human trafficking from every part of the world restart their lives in Washington State. Your contributions of monetary, in-kind, and volunteer support is crucial to achieving our goal—to help as many individuals and families as possible to rebuild their lives, and reach the end of their journey from harm to home.Nicky SmithNicky Smith is director of the IRC's Seattle office.
individuals from refugee and immigrant communities
We help people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover and regain control of their future.See our impact at a glance
refugees resettle across the country and rebuild their lives
The IRC helps refugees fleeing war and persecution to rebuild their lives in over 20 U.S. cities.Learn about refugees in America
people with training to help them build careers and income.
Our economic empowerment support includes financial coaching, vocational training and asset building.Learn more