March 28, 2016

How to help refugees in your area... even if you don't know any!

I was recently challenged to help refugees in my area however I could by the #IWasAStranger project.  I struggled with this because I don't know of any refugees, and I don't even think any live in my neighborhood.  I have 2 young kids with one on the way, which is causing me to be on semi-bed rest.  So, I'm not 100% sure how volunteering my time would work at the moment.  So, I kept thinking and even prayed about it.

Refugees come to our country with just the clothing on their back.  I can't imagine doing that!  It would be scary enough going to a new country with a new language and no friends, but to add that I don't have any personal belongings or money to help me, it's just unthinkable for me!

Because I know this challenge has been given to such a large group of women in my church, I thought I would post some ideas here to hopefully help others think of a way they can help, too!

Women's Welcome Bags
Have a girls' night out and ask everyone to bring a gently used purse and some toiletries to fill it with.  You could also add some fun "girly" things, like lotion and chocolate.

Children's Welcome Bags
With your children, gather a few things to put in pillow cases for the kids that have just arrived.  You can add a stuffed animal, books, coloring books, crayons, etc.  You can sew a simple pillow case, or buy an inexpensive one from Wal-Mart or the dollar store.
*I know that many refugees come not knowing the local language, but I am sure they would still love a book!
*Also, check to see if your location can accept gently used stuffed animals or if they have to be brand new.

School Supplies 
A large percentage of refugees are children, so they will need school supplies.  Although they will need them the most at the beginning of the school year, they probably need them throughout the year, for those coming in the middle of the school year.  Some helpful items might be backpacks, pencils, notebooks, pens, three ring binders, folders and calculators.
*It's easy to focus on the elementary aged kids, but we can't forget about the middle school & high school kids, too!

Clothing Drive
Ask your children, friends and neighbors to each pick out one outfit that they don't use anymore.  Collect them and take them to your local refugee center.  Easy peasy!
If you're feeling like making it extra fun, throw a pajama party & ask people to bring an extra pair of PJs to donate!
*Just be aware that some refugee centers might not accept shorts or short sleeved shirts.
*One big need is for NEW women's dresses so they can use them for job interviews.  Some refugees have religious preferences where they wear long sleeved and long dresses, but not all.

Throw a Baby Shower
Throw a baby shower where all of the gifts are donated to your local refugee center.  70% of refugees are women and children, so chances are that they might have some pregnant women or infants currently or in the near future.

Use your talents
If you love photography, volunteer to take pictures for a family.  If you love sewing, make a blanket for them.  If you love web design, volunteer to help the refugee center update their website.  The possibilities are endless!

Busy Books
Pennies of Time has compiled hundreds of busy books for kids in the hospital, but I think they would work really well in this case, too!  These are easy and inexpensive to make.  They can be made with one child, or with a large group!

Yard Sale
Hold a yard sale & donate the money made to a non-profit who helps refugees.  If you want to add a little something, you could even sell lemonade, cookies, juice &/or donuts!

Be a pen-pal
You &/or your children can be connected with a refugee through a local refugee center.  You can send them drawings from your children, you can write them cards or letters.  This will not only help them learn their English, but it will help them to know that someone cares about them!

Volunteer your time
Not all volunteer opportunities have to be long-term commitments.  For example, your family or youth group could set up a time to go play soccer with your local refugee center.

Think twice before throwing it away!
Instead of selling items on Craigslist, or even throwing them out, donate them to your local refugee center.  They need basically everything from clothing, to personal hygiene items, to cleaning supplies, to home appliances, so if your old washing machine still works, chances are, they would appreciate it!

Car Seat Drive
Car seats can be expensive, but they (all sizes) are very needed for the refugees!  After all, if it were your children, you'd want them to travel safely, too, right?  You can hold a drive where you collect new ones, have a bake sale where you earn money to buy some, or anything else you can think of!

*All of these material things can help a refugee, but remember, there are other aspects to serving and loving others.  I challenge you to be a friend to everyone, because you don't know what they have been through!  Sharing your love with someone can make a life long impact on anyone.

How do I find a local refugee center?
For me, it was simple.  I just googled "Utah Refugee" and a few popped up.  I looked at their websites and called the number listed to see if my idea would be okay for their current needs.

I promise you, that even a small donation will help someone and maybe even make a world of difference!  

*Please be sure to call your local refugee center/non-profit first to ensure the project you want to do is something that they can use at that time.  

For even more ideas, you can download the new, free app called 'Serve Refugees'!  Available for Apple and Android phones.

What other ideas, do you have?


  1. This is a brilliant blog! Thank you for your great ideas. I am definitely going to do some of them.

  2. Thanks for these great ideas! I'm always looking for ways to serve with my kids and in our Service Kids Club!
    -Emily @

  3. This is great!!! I was very touched by that challenge in the broadcast as this is something I have been feeling strongly about for awhile. But like you, I didn't know how much I could do right now. I'm a full time working mom of a 4 yr old and 6 month old, whose husband lives and works out of town. These ideas are great for people in my situation. My 4 year old could help organize some stuff for the kids too! He loves serving others. Thank you again!!


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