Supporting Refugee Resettlement

Donated Gift Cards for Afghan resettlement
It takes a village . . . to help resettle refugees! Pictured above with 100 donated gift cards are Camille Schmidek, Nancy Piedra, Alice Moylan, Jean Masland, and Tod Foote during Fellowship Hour on February 20, 2023.

Come, you who are blessed… for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me…    (Mt. 25:34-35)

With violence and unrest in Ukraine, Africa, Afghanistan, Syria, and other war-torn parts of the world, the United States remains a place of hope and safety for people fleeing violence and persecution. Local organizations are resettling refugees in the Greater Boston area, but many people arrive with no possessions and no financial resources – they need our help to build a new life here in the United States. First Parish hopes to offer our support for those people caught in this urgent and ongoing humanitarian crisis.

We know there are many people who want to help, but don’t know where to start. Additionally, people have varied capacities for offering assistance, with very different resources (e.g., time, physical capabilities, financial donations). First Parish has some volunteer leaders who are serving as point persons with local organizations, and we are hoping to cultivate a larger network of volunteers that can be mobilized for different projects. These projects will encompass a wide range of involvement, from financial support and donations to hands-on volunteering to direct support, assistance, or tutoring.

There is a great need for volunteer support and many ways to help!

Click here to sign up for updates about what First Parish is doing – you can confirm the kind of volunteering you can help with and the level at which you’d like to participate/receive email messages.

First Parish is partnering with IINE to support & sponsor a refugee family!

Collaborating with Local Organizations

We have been in communication with the International Institute of New England (IINE), an organization that has been doing extraordinary work in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. IINE was founded in 1910, and its mission is to create opportunities for refugees and immigrants to succeed through resettlement, education, career advancement, and pathways to citizenship. Their central office is located in Boston, with three regional field offices in Boston, Lowell, and Manchester, NH. IINE resettled over 300 Afghan evacuees in the first 12 weeks of the year and is working to resettle 200+ more. For more information about IINE and Afghan resettlement, watch the informational videos included at the bottom of this page.

Volunteer Opportunities & ways You Can Help

  • In-Person (but less physical):
    • Meal preparation and delivery
    • Going to an IINE site and helping to sort through donated goods
    • Grocery shopping & food delivery (IINE provides the list, and the grocery purchase will be reimbursed or can be treated as an in-kind donation)
  • More Hands-On:
    • Airport pick-ups
    • Apartment Setups – making beds, unpacking boxes, setting up the kitchen.
    • Donation of furniture and household items (IINE has very specific needs and requirements and only accepts donations of items currently needed, in new or very good condition. See their website for details)
  • Financial:

IINE has identified their greatest need as assistance with apartments — finding available (and affordable) apartments, soliciting appropriate houseware donations, and setting up the apartments (making beds, unpacking dishes & pans in the kitchen, etc.) so they are ready when the residents arrive. IINE is also seeking volunteers to help with meal service, grocery shopping, airport pickup, and other tasks/projects.

There is a specific process for getting involved with IINE as a volunteer; it includes an orientation (see videos below), completing waiver/protocol paperwork, and going through a confidential background screening. We are still coordinating some “behind the scenes” details about collaborating with IINE, but once we are cleared as volunteers we will share specifics about how to get involved. Sign up for emails (about the committee OR just for one-off projects) to stay in the loop.

Learn More About Afghan Resettlement

Afghans have suffered more than 40 years of conflict, natural disasters, chronic poverty, food insecurity, the COVID-19 pandemic, and most recently a changeover in government authorities. After the resurgence of the Taliban and their takeover of Kabul in August 2021, the instability and violence in Afghanistan intensified, causing even more human suffering and displacement. United States Government has welcomed over 80,000 Afghans fleeing violence and persecution in their homeland; learn more about the work IINE has done to support those efforts.

Town Hall Webinar

“This Town Hall session discussing Afghan resettlement was held virtually on January 19, 2022. IINE leadership, staff, and Reverend Dr. Jarred Mercer of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Newburyport, MA, provided an update on resettlement programming, achievements to date, and expected and unexpected challenges.”

IINE Volunteer Orientation

The IINE Afghan Support Volunteer Orientation video session (1 hr 30 min) covers the nuts & bolts of this process, and can help you better understand the Afghan resettlement context as well as the IINE program plan and volunteer activities. Watching this session should answer most questions you may have and help you determine the degree to which you would like to be involved.  IINE asks all people interested in working as a volunteer to review these orientation videos prior to signing up to help out.

Afghan Cultural Orientation

In addition to the general volunteer orientation, Dr. Rachel Lehr offered a webinar (2 hrs) to explore the geography, languages, and culture of Afghanistan. Dr. Lehr has a Ph.D. in Linguistics and more than 25 years of experience; her work has addressed the languages and cultures of central and south Asia.