What Can I Do To Help Refugees?

I often receive the question, “What can I do to help refugees?” Here are a few things to help you get started in refugee ministry.

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Refugees from DR Congo enjoy lunch at the Weatherly house one Sunday after church. Photo courtesy of Saul Young, Knoxville News Sentinel.

  • “Sponsor” a single mother by weekly visits which could include sharing meals together, grocery shopping, reading to her children, going to the $2 movie theater, etc. Basically forming a friendship.
  • Weekly tutoring in English. If you can speak English, you can teach English. There are so many free resources online to help in this process. Check out: Jubilee ESL Manual and Minnesota Literacy Council.
  • Show refugees how to use the library. Take them on a weekly visit to the library and if there are preschool children involved, try to have the visits be scheduled around the same time that the library has the Story and Craft Time.
  • Invite a refugee family into your home for a meal. Make this a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly tradition.
  • Help a refugee with job or housing applications. When they are ready to move into better housing, help them move.
  • Include a refugee in your family holiday festivities.
  • If you have a garden, share in the bounty. Invite a refugee over to see your garden and teach them the names of the vegetables in English.
  • Include a refugee in your day-to-day activities. A day swimming at the lake? Going to the Farmer’s Market? Hiking in the mountains? These are perfect times to introduce refugees to their new city/state.
  • Help a refugee with budgeting skills: how to grocery shop, how to stretch their limited income.
  • Help them study for the Driver License test. When they have their permit, spend time with them as they practice driving. Having a driver’s license opens up a whole new world of opportunities!

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  • Collect gently-used in-season clothing, kitchen items and children’s books to distribute either directly to refugees in need or to a clothing closet such as Woodlawn Refugee Ministry or a nonprofit that supports refugees.
  • Purchase a large map of the United States (I find poster-sized one’s at Dollar Tree) and hang it in the home of a refugee. Show them the states and capitals. Teach them North, South, East and West. Help them become acquainted with their new country.
  • Teach a refugee about U.S. history, government and Civics including the Bill of Rights.
  • A friend of mine started a bicycle ministry. He takes donated bikes that need repairing, makes the necessary repairs and then distributes the bikes to refugee children.
  • Do you have any special giftings? I’m sure there is something you can contribute that is special to you. If you are an artist, give art lessons to a child. If you can play a musical instrument, you can teach the basics to a refugee. These are activities that will build friendships while also being therapeutic.
  • If you are a massage therapist or chiropractor, offer your services pro bono. 
  • If you are a professional in another field, consider whether your services could be used to assist a refugee. Think about hiring a refugee or offering an apprenticeship.
  • The possibilities are endless!