Chris Kelley, spokesperson for the Refugee Services of Texas, said volunteer groups like the one in Bee Cave are crucial to his organization’s success.
“The U.S. refugee admissions program was established as a public private partnership. So a partnership between the government and volunteers,” he said. “We could not deliver the services we deliver to vulnerable people like refugees without volunteers like this group.”
Kelley explained that refugees have been displaced from their homes and are fleeing persecution, or fear of persecution, based on their race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Refugees who are resettled in the United States have gone through a years-long application process to get here, he said.
“When they arrive we provide them with basic necessities, health screenings, get kids in schools and help find mom and dad jobs,” he said. “They have 180 days to become self-sufficient.”
Most families are able to achieve self sufficiency in that time frame, he said, and those who are struggling receive extra support from the organization.
Kelley said the Austin area takes in refugees who fit into several different groups, including single women who are fleeing gender-related violence, people who had to leave their home countries because of their sexuality, and many from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
There are also a number of the refugees who have settled in the Austin area who have special immigrant visas. These people who have helped the U.S. armed forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, such as by serving as a translator, and need to be resettled with their families for safety reasons.
The best way to get involved in the Refugee Services of Texas volunteer program is to check the organization’s website for volunteer training opportunities, he said.
RVRP Vice President, Jennifer Gauntt said that for those who want to donate goods to our efforts, needed items include anything the team could use to set up a house for a family — dishes, pots and pans, tea kettles, towels, twin and full sized bed linens, toiletries, toys for kids, vacuums, lamps and more.
Donated storage space in the Bee Cave area would also help the group, she said. This would provide a way to organize supplies and let the it spend money on other items.
Read the full article in the Austin American-Statesman.
Image source/credit: Austin American-Statesman, Contributed Photo