As many of us in Orange County continue to reel from the recent election and are afraid of what might happen under a, shudder, Trump presidency, we’d like to share some things that we can do to help our neighbors, particularly those most likely to be marginalized—especially under a new administration.
Those who work with refugee populations in Orange County are hearing from their national networks to prepare for total shutdown of refugee resettlement programs and related federal funding under the coming administration. Currently, however, we have welcomed a number of refugees into Orange County. The Director of the Refugee Support Center in Carrboro reports that there are currently 5 families from Syria in Orange County, with a total of 32 individuals. Arrivals started slowly this past summer. From July through the end of November, 69 refugees from the following countries have arrived in Orange County: Congo, Burma, Iraq, and Syria.
Four resettlement agencies in the Triangle (two in Durham and two in Raleigh) assist refugees when they first arrive. Most refugees will be resettled in Durham or Raleigh primarily because of housing and employment availability and proximity to resettlement agency offices. All told, Orange County is likely to receive approximately 150 refugees, from the countries mentioned above, for the fiscal year, Oct '16 - September '17.
The following are some ways that we in Orange County can help, provided by the Refugee Support Center:
1) Organize a group or use an existing group (faith based congregation, neighborhood, work group, book group, etc) and offer to become a co-sponsor for an expected family. Contact one of the local resettlement agencies and find out what is involved. (The Refugee Support Center is not a resettlement agency).
2) Make a donation to a resettlement agency or another non-profit working with refugees or inquire about volunteer opportunities. These organizations include the Refugee Community Partnership and the Refugee Support Center in Orange County.
3) Offer to pay rent or utilities for a month or two for a newly arrived family working to gain financial self sufficiency.
4) Provide room in your home for a family until suitable housing can be arranged.
5) If someone is interested in assisting refugee through the Refugee Support Center:
- Donate paper products: paper towels, toilet paper, boxes of tissues that we can distribute to families. Food Stamps (SNAP) does not cover these items and so refugees spend money they really don't have to secure these necessary items.
6) Never underestimate the impact of small gestures on making a refugee feel welcome. A few examples:
- Sliding over on the bus seat to make room a for a refugee.
- Holding the door for a refugee when both of you are entering or leaving a building at the same time.
- Letting a refugee get in front of you in a line rather than compete to get there first.
- Refraining from saying the same thing over but louder when a refugee doesn't understand you the first time.