Tallahassee is one of the most welcoming, hospitable, gracious cities on the planet. But to refugees who have fled violence, left behind everything they have, don’t know the language or the culture, and have no support network, it can feel like a lonely place. We can change that! Find out how you can help Tallahassee refugees successfully start a new life.
Tallahassee’s refugee population
Currently, Tallahassee is home to about 90 refugee families who are here because they are fleeing violence and persecution in their home country. Most are refugees of Afghanistan, Syria, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with a few others from Columbia and El Salvador.
Here are a few of their stories.
We’ve all seen the horrifying images of Afghan families separated by the danger, rush and chaos outside the Kabul airport. Most of those who were lucky enough to make it into the American military cargo planes and to safety in America became fragmented families, including one of our Tallahassee refugee families. A mom and dad each took two kids in different cars and headed to the Kabul airport. They separated because, if caught together, this family of six might have been identified by the Taliban as trying to escape – a circumstance that got other families incarcerated or killed. In the case of this family, one car made it, and the other didn't. Now, a 74-year-old father now living near FAMU may never again see his wife of over 50 years or his son and daughter. The son and daughter that made it to America with their dad may never see their mom and siblings ever again. They mourn their separation every day of their lives in both countries.
Syrians have been bleeding out of their country (literally and figuratively) for over 40 years, due to the Assad family's long and brutal rule. Almost 7 million Syrians have fled the country, with many spending years and years in refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon. One family that was resettled to Tallahassee in February has a 6-year-old boy who has never lived in a home that was not a tent. He has spent his entire life in a refugee camp in a foreign country and, until now, had never slept in a bed.
In Colombia, a family of six happily lived and worked in the capital, until the hard-working, devoutly religious father witnessed a drug cartel murder. A price was put on his head, and the family fled to a refugee camp in Nicaragua, where they lived for years. They were granted asylum into America and then arrived in Tallahassee, where they have been working hard to make a new life in a country, despite knowing no English, and never before driving a car. Despite every challenge, they are grateful to be safe and and are happy to have this second chance at life.
The Tallahassee Refugee Connection is a volunteer group of individuals, churches and other houses of worship, and civic groups helping the International Rescue Committee (IRC) meet the needs of Tallahassee’s refugees.
How to help
Refugees need jobs, housing, household items, transportation, help connecting to resources, and fellowship. There is something for everyone to do:
- Donate financially or contribute needed household items.
- Ask your church, house of worship or civic group to sponsor a family (HOME)
- Pick up and deliver donated items
- Provide a job to a refugee or link them to jobs
- Help refugees prepare their resumes
- Drive refugees to medical or other appointments and help them navigate
- Hold a drive to gather most-needed items, including diapers, feminine hygiene products, backpacks and school supplies, children’s toys, or household cleaning products
We need 15 refugee family sponsors!
Ask your church, civic group, employer, or group of friends to become a HOME member and sponsor a refugee family for six months. Throughout this time, the family’s caseworker will be available to troubleshoot issues and provide guidance. Here’s what it takes:
- Contribute $3,000 - $5,000 toward a family’s basic living expenses for five months. Refugees are provided with enough funding to cover their first 30 days in the U.S., but private contributions are needed to help them achieve self-sufficiency over six months.
- Recruit 12 volunteers who will help the family for at least two hours per week. This may include meeting the family at the airport, helping to set up their apartment, taking them to medical and government appointments, helping them find a job, helping kids get settled in school, taking them grocery shopping, learning how to navigate the bus system. HOME teams will receive an orientation that covers the basics of refugee resettlement, cultural communication, and expectations that go along with the program.
- Gather items the family needs. Help solicit the household and basic living items they need.
- Provide fellowship. This may include taking the family to a baseball game, cooking a meal with them, or driving them to their religious service or to visit other refugees.
To find out more about sponsoring a refugee family click here or call 510-847-6274. Faith organizations interested in learning more can contact Candace McKibben here.
Jobs, jobs, jobs!
Refugees receiving federal assistance have 3 months to find a job and must accept the first job they’re offered. Many held professional positions in their country of origin but here they are performing basic housekeeping or restaurant work. If you are an employer, please check out this list of current refugees’ skills and see if you can extend a job opportunity. If you might have job opportunities for a refugee, please contact Ken Boutwell.
One HOME team’s story
"Faith Presbyterian asked the IRC to give us one of their "neediest" cases, and they gave us an Afghan family of three– a mom and her son and nephew who are both under 15. The mother is a recent widow who doesn't speak any English and is illiterate. Our entire church has enjoyed getting involved with this little family, visiting about twice a week, finding out their needs, and helping to babysit the boys. As a church, we’ve helped them pay their rent, taken them to doctor appointments, to restaurants and on outings, and provided things they needed for their home. Since one of the boys has serious eye issues, we used our church network to get them connected to an ESL group and to eye doctors. It's all about developing a relationship and the Faith congregation is up to the task!”
Families need household items!
If you have items to donate, contact Christina Stanton.
To contribute financially visit here and select Tallahassee refugees. All donations will be used to buy needed items for local refugees.
Most needed items:
- Iron/ironing board
- Coffee tables, end tables, and desks
- Blenders, microwaves, Instapots, and other basic kitchen appliances
- Sewing machines, fabric, thread
- Electric tea kettles
- Clothing dressers
- Children's toys
- Tea cups
- Bike locks (U-locks)
- New Rokus and tv antennas
Big idea: Let’s get an Afghan restaurant or food truck going!
Is there a local restauranteur willing to help?
Read about how a community in New York has done this successfully here.
Transportation is everything.
Thank you, Bike House!
Refugees are very transportation challenged. One Tallahassee business is helping refugees connect to jobs, medical appointments, shopping and more by providing free bicycles.
A home of their own
Housing is a BIG challenge. If you are a property owner and are willing to rent an apartment to a refugee, please let us know. Free and discounted housing for a limited time is especially appreciated. Contact Karen Duncan or call 510-847-6274.
Join us for World Refugee Day!
We will be gathering Tallahassee’s refugee community for a day of fellowship, awareness, and fun in recognition of World Refugee Day --June 20. Check back here for more details.
Refugee challenges: Is there one you can help solve?
- Refugee children are catching up on schoolwork and trying to learn English, but have to turn in their Chromebooks at the end of the school year.
- Tallahassee Bike House helps refurbish free bikes for refugees but to get one, refugees must show up with a U-lock. For most refugees, a bike is their only form of transportation. Consider donating a U-lock or organizing a U-lock drive.
- Do you have access to a truck? Picking up and dropping off donated household items is a constant need. Contact Christina Stanton if you can help pick up and drop off items, even occasionally.
Afghan Refugees and Tallahassee Sponsors builds lifelong friendship
Christina Stanton volunteered to help one young Afghan refugee family. It soon turned into something bigger. And better.
Helping Afghan Refugees Find Home in Tallahassee
Afghan refugees in need of community assistance.