Volunteers needed for Refugee Focus program

Susan Shear

Many of us come from families who once were refugees. Some of our families escaped persecution, trauma and death. As I know from the stories of my family of refugees who escaped the Nazis in the 1930s, it is incredibly difficult to come to a new country from a completely different culture, unable to speak the language, often leaving family and friends behind without a job or money or resources.

After watching the heartbreaking stories of families in war torn and unstable parts of the world, Steve and I wanted to do something to give back in memory and honor of our family of refugees who found help when they needed it. Luckily we found a wonderful way to do that here in Tucson.

Refugee Focus is a program run by Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest, a non-profit organization whose mission is to show kindness, do justice and service those in need. Side by side with volunteers and other community co-sponsors, the Refugee Focus program resettles about 1,000 refugees each year in Arizona. Just last month 90 families arrived in Tucson needing help to build a new life in a safe environment. After attending a meeting to learn more, Steve and I will be trained and then paired with a refugee family. Each volunteer is asked to commit to about six hours of volunteer help a week for about three to six months. Responsibilities include things like helping someone learn to navigate public transportation, getting a family set up with a library card or showing new arrivals how to go to the grocery store or the bank. Volunteers might help a family set up their new apartment or understand the school system for their children, make doctor appointments or help with time management as they learn basic English along the way. The mission is to give these families support and show them they are welcome and safe here.

If you are interested in learning more about Refugee Focus, please contact Antonio Philippe, Refugee Americorps Volunteer Manager, at 520-721-4444 (x 110) or at [email protected] or go to the website: www.refugeefocus.org.