Organizations Doing Great Work
www.immigrationequality.org is the website for a U.S. immigration advocacy group that advocates for and provides free legal services to LGBT and HIV-positive immigrants. According to the website, for more than 20 years, they have been focused on providing free legal services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and HIV-positive immigrants, including: asylum seekers forced to flee to the U.S. to find safety; bi-national couples and families separated by oceans; detainees trapped in immigration jail facilities; undocumented LGBT people living in the shadows inside the U.S.
International Rescue Committee
Volunteer opportunities for people not available at least 15 hours a week for 6 months at a time are limited. This is in the best interest of IRC clients and is intended to ensure excellence in their work. IRC does partner with churches on in-kind donation drives and to raise crucial funding for its work. Some examples include Safeway gift card drives to ensure new arrivals are able to afford healthy food, a used but well-functioning van to help with airport pickups, and various new household goods and furniture to set up family apartments. IRC reports its experience is that churches usually prefer to focus on one area because it's easier to see impact and they can 'own' that gift for local refugees.
Opening Doors, like other resettlement groups, focuses on the Sacramento Area to re-settle its clients, and most specifically in and around the Arden and Carmichael areas. This means that volunteer opportunities are primarily restricted to these areas. Opening Doors rep saw as the most valuable volunteer opportunity for our more local church members would be to engage in and experience a one-on-one relationship with these refugees by mentoring a family. This type of volunteer work is usually a once a week meeting with the family for one to two hours for a period of 2-3 months, and of course involves being in Sacramento during that time.
As for churches and individual church members that are located too far from the Sacramento Area to volunteer as mentors, Opening Doors reports it has had many religious groups put together care packages for families. In the past these care packages have been made up of bathroom items, kitchen items, or other small household items that could be useful to start a new home. The only issue would be that these items would need to be transported either to the Opening Door office, or directly to individual families in the Sacramento Area.
Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services
The key for individual volunteer efforts is to be "in town." Even a proposed location such as Stockton, where family ties existed, was seen as too far removed from the necessary services and support available in Sacramento, and so the family was re-settled in Sacramento on an interim basis until a degree of stability was achieved. In-town volunteers serve as friends, mentors, and good neighbors with all geared towards moving towards greater cultural orientation for the re-settled individual or family.
Parish involvement can include collecting items necessary to start a household, i.e., everything from a complete "move-in" in a box to pillows, sheets and blankets, and everything in-between. Gift cards, such as to Walmart, are appreciated and needed. Refugees work from a fixed amount of money and anything that allows them to stretch those limited dollars is of tremendous benefit. Likewise, cash donations can be made directly to a family or to the Sacramento Food Bank, which can then make purchases on behalf of a family. e.g., an alarm clock. Cash donations can also be directed to specific items, such as the cost of flight to Sacramento, which is a cost ultimately borne by the refugee and is in the area of $1000/person.
World Relief Sacramento
Historically, perhaps the longest-serving and most church-oriented of the four groups assisting in resettlement in Sacramento. Since 1944, World Relief "has been fulfilling its mission to empower the local church to serve the most vulnerable," and since 1989 has worked with partner churches in welcoming more than 30,000 refugees to Sacramento.
The Yolo Interfaith Immigration Network
YIIN is a small grass roots 501(c)(3) non-profit organization serving and advocating for immigrants in Yolo County. YIIN has a weekly visitation program at Yolo County Juvenile Hall, where visits support immigrant youth in detention while they await resolution of their immigration cases. YIIN also offers a children/youth after-school program and adult English as a Second Language and computer classes at the Madison Migrant Center. This center is the home of migrant families in Yolo County who are here for six months of the year working in our fields and canneries. YIIN also holds educational programs that offer the wider community information about policy issues related to immigration and that aim to put a face on our many undocumented neighbors. YIIN raises money to provide financial aid to individuals applying for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) immigration status as well as to fund scholarships for undocumented students. YIIN meets monthly on the second Wednesday of the month in Davis/Woodland.