MIGRANTS & REFUGEES: volunteer
The Importance of Volunteers and Why MRS Needs Your Support
Beyond the obvious humanitarian reason of helping someone in need, Judeo-Christian religious scripture offers stories of refugees and migrants and God's concern for such people. Both the Old and New Testaments tell compelling stories of refugees forced to flee because of oppression. Exodus tells the story of the Chosen People, who were victims of bitter slavery in Egypt. They were utterly helpless by themselves, but with God's powerful intervention they were able to escape and take refuge in the desert. For forty years they lived as wanderers with no homeland of their own. Finally, God fulfilled his ancient promise and settled them on the land that they could finally call home.
The Israelites' experience of living as homeless aliens was so painful and frightening that God ordered his people for all time to have special care for the alien: "You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; have the same love for him as for yourself; for you too were once aliens in the land of Egypt" (Lv 19:33-34).
The New Testament begins with Matthew's story of Joseph and Mary's escape to Egypt with their newborn son, Jesus, because the paranoid and jealous King Herod wanted to kill the infant. Jesus himself lived as a refugee because his own land was not safe.
Jesus reiterates the Old Testament command to love and care for the stranger, a criterion by which we shall be judged: "For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me" (Mt 25:35). The Apostle Paul asserts the absolute equality of all people before God: "There is neither Jew nor Greek . . . for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3:28). In Christ, the human race is one before God, equal in dignity and rights.
Working with Refugees Builds Community
Churches, Congregations, and Community Organizations have found that working as a group with refugees builds community and, for faith-based groups, is an opportunity to strengthen their beliefs through service to others.
Apartment Set-Up — Help secure donations of furniture and household goods, move the items into the apartment, and set up the apartment for the refugees.
English Tutor — Help refugees learn and practice basic English through conversation and basic lessons and drills. Hours are flexible, usually evenings and weekends.
Family Mentors/Cultural Orientation/Community Orientation — Help refugees adapt to their new home by being a family mentor; providing local, social and cultural orientation. Whether it is helping a family use public transportation, a bank machine or public telephone, your time can make a difference helping a family adjust to their new community.
Drivers / Donation Delivery and Transportation of Refugees — MRS is in great need of volunteers to pick-up and deliver donated items. Our office is constantly looking for donations of furniture, household appliances, TVs, and electrical items to give to newly arriving families. Helping us pick-up and deliver these items is a HUGE help. It's quick, easy, flexible and very rewarding. Refugees sometimes need transportation to and from appointments and/or work because of limitations in the public transportation system. This is a perfect opportunity for volunteers who have flexible schedules but not a lot of time.
Fundraising / Event Coordination / Volunteer Recruitment — Help MRS recruit, find donations and spread the word about MRS. Help us get your friends, colleagues, churches, congregations and communities involved. Plan & organize an event, solicit donations and spread the word. Your ideas, help and creativity are greatly welcome and appreciated.
Office/Clerical Support Work and Newsletter — Assist with paper work and filing in the MRS office or, depending on your individual circumstances, from the comfort of your own home. Create a monthly newsletter for MRS volunteers and donors.
Advocacy — Become aware of legislative issues which affect the rights of immigrants and refugees, and write or visit government officials to advocate support of pro-immigration/pro refugee legislation.
Internships — MRS accepts two to three interns per semester. Students gain class credits and valuable work experience. To apply for an internship students must clear it with their university and include a cover letter with their volunteer application form.
What Else? — The opportunities for volunteer involvement are endless. If you have any other ideas for how to help MRS promote refugee self-sufficiency and independence please contact the MRS Director.
Most groups take on one of the tasks mentioned above and do it together as a group. Sometimes they will commit to performing the task with one family or for a number of families for a limited period of time.
Other groups agree to perform all of the volunteer tasks related to one particular refugee's resettlement. They divide between themselves the responsibilities of Apartment Set-up, Cultural Orientation, English Tutoring, and Transportation.
What is the Time Commitment? MRS generally requires a minimum commitment of 1-3 hours a week for a time period of 3 to 4 months but this depends on the volunteer's task. We are flexible and work with volunteers to find an arrangement that accommodates their individual circumstances. There are opportunities for those who make time commitments large and small.
Where do I volunteer?
Most refugees are settled in the central part of Tucson and the MRS office is located near the corner of Speedway and Stone so most volunteer opportunities are in that part of the city. There are exceptions however, and volunteers from all parts of Tucson are always welcome.
I want to volunteer, what next?
MRS Staff will contact you to notify you of the next volunteer orientation. Thank you for your interest in Refugee Resettlement.