By Anna Smith
Since 2001, June 20 has been recognized as World Refugee Day. It’s a day to honor and support refugees all over the globe. Refugees are individuals and families who have been forced to seek refuge outside of their native country’s borders due to a serious fear or threat of persecution, war, violence, or other danger.
According to Refugee Support Services, Charlotte welcomes more than 600 refugees each year. These individuals and families are important members of our community and contributors to our culture. There are many opportunities to support refugees on local, national, and international levels. Here are five ways you can step in and make a difference on World Refugee Day:
1. Volunteer Locally
Through the Carolina Refugee Resettlement Agency, you can connect with refugees directly by providing hot meals for newly arrived families or driving refugees to appointments. The agency also has openings for volunteers to help on the back end by picking up and dropping off donations, setting up apartments for arriving refugees, and administrative office duties. You can also apply to volunteer at the Refugee Support Services welcome center. Of course, International House serves refugees and always has opportunities for volunteering, including English tutoring and career coaching as well as many others.
2. Educate Yourself and Others
Read the facts about refugees in America as well as personal stories from refugee individuals and families. Sign up for the UN Refugee Agency’s newsletter to receive updates on policies, campaigns, and other news surrounding refugees and other displaced people. If you're more of an audio learner, listen to real refugees' stories on the NPR podcast series "Resettled." Then share what you have learned with friends and family!
3. Advocate for Refugees
Take a stand by signing petitions that advocate for their right to seek safety, or send a letter urging President Biden to honor our country’s commitment to resettle refugees. Visit the Levine Museum's current exhibit "Climates of Inequality" to learn about the role climate change has in putting refugees in further danger. Then add your name to a list of advocates demanding that governments protect refugees and vulnerable countries by combatting climate change.
4. Attend a Local Event
Attend (or even volunteer at) Charlotte’s second annual World Refugee Day event on Saturday, June 24 from 4–7 P.M. at 3925 Willard Farrow Dr., where the ourBRIDGE and Refugee Support Services offices are located. The event is free and open to the public and will include family-friendly activities, performances, and opportunities to celebrate and support refugees. You can also attend International House's People of the World events to mingle with refugees and immigrants from different countries every month.
5. Donate to Refugee-Focused Causes
International House offers support to refugees in several ways. The education department runs literacy programs and tutoring for children, English classes for adults, and citizenship preparation courses for those who are preparing for naturalization. The law clinic provides legal assistance to refugees who are applying for U.S. citizenship. The cultural clubs help refugees and Charlotteans integrate together. And the community navigators at the hub help connect refugees with community resources according to their needs. Since International House is a non-profit organization, all of these programs and services are made possible through donations. You can donate monetary gifts as well as other types of gifts to support refugees on the IH website.
However you spend World Refugee Day, International House wants to hear about it! Tag IH in your social media posts (@intlhouseclt on Instagram and International House on Facebook) as you share how you are supporting refugees.
Whether it is sharing something you learned about refugees, signing a petition, volunteering with or donating to a supportive organization, or any other form of honoring refugees, you have the power to make a difference and help Charlotte welcome the world.