Guidelines to Sponsor Refugee Families

“In you, O Lord, have I taken refuge; …” Psalm 31: 1

ref*u*gee (noun): a person who has been forced to flee their home in search of refuge from persecution, war, or natural disaster.

ref*uge (noun): protection or shelter from danger and distress; place providing protection or shelter from danger or distress; institution providing protection or shelter from danger or distress.

Becoming a Refugee Is Not Voluntary

No matter where you look in the world, it’s easy to find unrest and chaos at work. Grief and suffering take a toll, whether they are a consequence of a natural or human-created disaster. Survivors and relief workers alike must find ways to pick up the pieces. Sometimes, the only way survivors can rebuild a life for themselves and their families is to flee their homes, everything they have known, and seek refuge and shelter elsewhere. They become refugees. It is not a voluntary choice.

Choosing to Sponsor Refugee Families Is Voluntary

It is a voluntary choice to become a refugee sponsor, whether through your church or a dedicated organization. Sponsors provide support to refugee families as they get settled into their new life through many different efforts:

  • material support in providing food, furniture, kitchen appliances, utensils, cookware, and/or clothing
  • simple errands like driving people to appointments, shopping, or church
  • more complicated tasks like helping register children for schools, applying for jobs, and adjusting to a brand new culture
  • financial support

It is the kind of responsibility that is often best shared among a church or service group, and follows prescribed practices and recommendations.

Guidelines to Sponsor Refugee Families

  • Treat the people you seek to help as people, equal and respected and full of their own hopes, fears, traditions, and beliefs, as are you, neither right nor wrong.
  • Be patient, be kind, be respectful.
  • Be communicative, encouraging, and confidential.
  • Do not seek repayment of any fashion; you are volunteering to do this, or just don’t do it.
  • Don’t become the sole source of support; this is for the good of all parties involved, and applies to more than just a refugee/sponsor relationship.

If you are sponsoring through a pre-existing organization that works in resettling refugees, do not disrupt the way they work with their clients. It does not matter if you know a good lawyer or landlord or whatever it may be. Each organization has their own groups and people they use, and for their own good reasons. As a sponsor, you are there to be a good neighbor, not a hero.

There are many resources one can use as a refugee sponsor, especially if you are sponsoring through an organization or with your church. Utilize these resources. Remember to take care of yourself and your family, too. Remember that, no matter where we came from or why we ended up as neighbors, we are here to look after one another. Together we can make it through. And on the days when we feel like we can’t, may we all remember to take refuge in God.

Mara DiGiovanni (she/her) serves as the Northeast Metro Convocation Representative on the ECF Board of Directors and has been a member of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Snellville since she was still incubating in the womb. She currently works at St. Matthew’s Preschool as an assistant teacher for four year olds, gets very enthusiastic about story time, and is able to use her experience as an art student while planning, preparing and making crafts with the children. Mara is currently planning out a PhD in research, studying the psychology of story-telling. Learn more about the ECF Board of Directors.

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