Here’s a quick and comprehensive post about ways you can connect with and support refugees in the Grand Rapids area. Maybe you’d like to know retail shops, restaurants, or other local businesses that donate a portion of their profits to aid refugees. Or perhaps you’re interested in providing material support such as clothes or furniture, linguistic support as an ESL tutor, transportation support, or becoming a cultural liaison in any capacity. There are so many low-commitment, low-cost ways to get involved, because I realize, as a college student, monetary donations are not always feasible, but donating your time can be just as valuable to our new Americans.
There are links connected to each of these organizations, so simply click on the title of what sounds interesting to you and you will be taken to the organization’s website to learn more. I really encourage you get involved with this vulnerable population that both needs our help as well as has so much to offer us personally and our community. Who knows, you may make connections that truly change your life!
Treetops Collective: An organization that partners with small sewing businesses to create opportunities and empower skilled refugee women to use their gifts, build friendships with other refugee and non-refugee women, and earn a living wage. They sell super cute T-shirts with the Treetops Collective logo and the word “Welcome” in Spanish, Dutch, Arabic, Swahili, or Kinyarwanda!
Little Orange Scooter: One of the small sewing businesses that rents space from Treetops Collective and employs refugee women to use their gifts or learn to sew, while bridging linguistic and cultural differences to inspire hope. They sell beautifully patterned tote bags, small wristlet wallets, and adorable children’s clothing! Check out their Etsy shop too.
Refutea: This fair-trade tea company was founded by two former Grand Valley State University students and a portion of their tea sale profits go to local refugee resettlement agencies.
Bethany Christian Services: A major refugee resettlement agency in Grand Rapids, Bethany often has a need for ESL tutors, foster families for unaccompanied minors, transportation for clients, furniture donations (they pick up!), training clients on how to ride & navigate the GR bus system, and more. Simply asking how you can be of help goes a long way!
Samaritas: A major refugee resettlement agency in Grand Rapids, Samaritas also often has a need for volunteer ESL tutors, volunteer drivers to provide transportation to/from school or appointments, furniture donations, or translators. Again, asking how you can best be of help is a great first step!
West Michigan Refugee Education Center: This non-profit in Grand Rapids was founded in 2006 by immigrants and refugees to the area and aims to empower and provide support for refugee students to succeed in school academically and socially, as well as strengthen community ties for refugee families and foster leadership development.
Justice for Our Neighbors: JFON was created in response to increasingly complex immigration regulations and operates on volunteerism for new client intake, translation services, advocacy & fundraising, and monthly hospitality services.
In The Image: A non-profit, faith-based org that works with local refugee resettlement agencies to provide material items to those in need. They also use a volunteer base to organize items in the store. If you’re specifically looking to aid refugees, consider taking your unwanted items (pots, pans, toys, furniture, clothes, books, etc) to In The Image!
Love, Inc.: Similar to In The Image, this is a non-profit, faith-based org that works with local refugee resettlement agencies to provide material items. Volunteers are needed in myriad ways here as well. Check out their site.
Thrive: Founded in 2011, this team of volunteers works to provide support for refugees post-resettlement, after the services of refugee agencies expire. With a value on cross-cultural relationship cultivation and community improvement, Thrive offers a “Cultural Broker Program” and English and Citizenship classes free of charge.
West Michigan Community Relief: This non-profit seeks to supplement the efforts of refugee resettlement agencies in providing furniture, housewares, clothing, and school supplies. Consider taking your unwanted items here, they are currently in need of blankets, pots, pans, socks, and house-cleaning supplies.
Faith-Based Community Supports: (see my previous post for a list of faith communities in Grand Rapids that participate in co-sponsorship and the like)
If you know of any other businesses or organizations that donate materials, time, services, or proceeds to the West Michigan refugee population, please comment below and I will update the post! Thank you!