Two young children who witnessed their grandfather’s execution. A man who dragged his daughter out of the rubble after his house in Syria was bombed. Families who’d been threatened by government officials and forced to flee.
These are some of the people Edward and Marian Walsh, a couple from the small Johnston County town of Princeton, met when they traveled to Amman, Jordan, this fall. During their two-week trip, they worked with mostly Syrian refugees through a nonprofit group several miles away from the country’s border.
“They taught us a lot,” Edward Walsh said of the refugees. “This crisis is something we in the U.S. need to be aware of.”
Images from Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, and its nearly 6-year-old war have dominated the news in recent months. Fighting between the Syrian government and rebel fighters has included airstrikes, sieges and fires that have left Aleppo, once the country’s commercial center, in ruins.
Foreign involvement has further complicated the war, with Russia and Iran supporting the Syrian government and the United States and Turkey backing the rebels. In mid-December, Syrian government forces reclaimed Aleppo and began evacuating residents.
The Walshes, who are in their 70s, are scheduled to speak at Rotary clubs and universities in North Carolina and beyond to share their experiences and to talk about how others can help.
“They don’t want to immigrate here,” Walsh said of refugees. “They want to go home, but it’s too dangerous.”
Over the past five years, more than 13,000 refugees have resettled in North Carolina. Most have come from Burma, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Bhutan, according to the federal Refugee Processing Center.
In 2016, more than 600 Syrian refugees arrived in North Carolina. Most settled in High Point and Durham.
Walsh wants to encourage local residents to meet refugees, donate to local and international initiatives and visit their nearest mosque.
“Get to know people and build bridges of communication,” he said.
Here are some ways to help local organizations working to assist refugees:
Church World Services
Global nonprofit Church World Services, which has an office in Durham, helps refugees find homes, jobs, educational opportunities and medical assistance. It also sponsors community dinners to help refugees meet their new neighbors.
The group is asking for volunteers to help with community outings, job skills and language training, and advocacy.
Church World Services also accepts monetary donations and furniture items, including mattresses, pillows and dishware. The group created an Amazon Wish List for the needed items, which can be found at http://amzn.to/2ib18iZ.
To volunteer or donate, go to http://cwsrdu.org/ or mail checks to 112 S. Duke St., Suite 4B, Durham, NC 27701. In the memo line, write “Attention: Nasseer Naji.”
Raleigh Immigrant Community
A partner of the University of North Carolina, Raleigh Immigrant Community is a nonprofit that seeks to create a support network.
The organization holds regular meetings where refugees and immigrants gather, and it works with UNC to hold health workshops. It also helps refugees apply for jobs and enroll in education classes.
The group is looking for volunteers to help transport people to their appointments, teach English as a second language and help with translating.
For volunteer opportunities, contact Bonganga Felix Iyoko at email@example.com or Laura Garlock at firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations can be made online at http://ricinc.org/ or by sending a check to 3824 Barrett Drive, Suite 201, Raleigh, NC 27609.
World Relief Durham
World Relief Durham partners with churches and other groups to resettle refugees in the Triangle. In 2017, the group will receive 350 refugees from all over the globe, said Adam Clark, the agency’s office director.
The organization helps refugees find an apartment, register for benefits and connect with churches and community groups.
World Relief Durham is partnering with Hope Valley Baptist Church in Durham to renovate a house for refugees. Volunteers from the church are preparing Hope House, a home on the church’s property, and hope to welcome refugees in January, said pastor Bill Bigger.
World Relief Durham is asking for donations for its holiday campaign to assist refugees with rent as well as coats for the winter. To donate online, go to http://bit.ly/2gYUJFA and use the comment section to specify “rent assistance.” Or mail checks to 801 Gilbert St., Suite 209, Durham, NC 27701 with “rent assistance” in the memo line.
Hope Valley is also asking for financial donations to help with home renovations, and in January the church will look for volunteers to help manage the house. Checks can be mailed to 6900 Garrett Road, Durham, NC 27707 with “Hope House” in the memo.
Lutheran Services Carolinas
Salisbury-based Lutheran Services Carolinas, which has an office in Raleigh, is a nonprofit that provides services for refugees, children, families and seniors.
The organization partners with churches and groups to sponsor refugees, which includes welcoming them at the airport, setting up housing and providing transportation to appointments.
This year, the nonprofit resettled nearly 300 refugees, said Carly Fisher, community outreach coordinator. It is asking for donations of children’s winter coats, closed-toe shoes for all ages, pots and pans, pillows and other items in preparation for winter and the coming year.
To donate, go to http://www.lscarolinas.net/ or mail checks to 1416 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Ave., P.O. Box 947, Salisbury, NC 28145. To volunteer or donate items, contact Fisher at email@example.com or 919-861-2826.
U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
The Washington, D.C.-based committee helps refugees find housing and employment and provides legal services and job training.
Part of its mission is helping clients achieve financial independence, said Scott Phillips, director of the committee’s Raleigh office. About 90 percent are financially self-sustainable three months after they arrive.
Additionally, the nonprofit partners with several local churches to place refugees at Welcome House, a home near N.C. State University’s campus. They stay while the committee searches for a permanent home.
A volunteer “hospitality crew” cleans the house, stocks it with groceries and prepares a hot meal for the first night, said Marc Wyatt, who oversees the house’s operations.
To donate, go to http://bit.ly/2haWS44 or mail checks to 3824 Barrett Drive, Suite 200, Raleigh, NC 27609. To volunteer, contact the committee at 919-334-0072.
Madison Iszler: 919-836-4952; @madisoniszler