How will we be able to communicate? Refugees may understand some English. It might be difficult at first for a volunteer to understand English spoken with an accent, but with practice and careful listening it becomes easier. For refugees who speak little or no English, improving their English skills is an important goal. Volunteers will be amazed at how effectively they and their refugee partners can communicate using hand signals, pantomime and dictionaries.
What if my refugee partner moves away? Refugees are often separated from family and friends as a result of persecution in their own country and their difficult journey to the United States. If a volunteer’s refugee partner locates friends and family in another part of the country, he or she might move to join them. Such a move can take place suddenly and with little advance warning. After a refugee relocates to his or her new home, perhaps a volunteer can stay in touch with a brief phone call or letter.
What if I am asked to help out financially? We recommend paying for events to which you invite your refugee partner. If you receive requests from your refugee partner for cash to help meet other needs, do not feel obligated to give financial assistance. Depending upon the nature of the request, you may or may not be able to help out. It may be more helpful for you to assist your refugee partner in thinking through a problem situation rather than to give money. If you have any questions concerning a request for money from your refugee partner, please contact a WRHP case manager.
What if my refugee partner needs special help that I can’t provide? You will probably encounter situations with your refugee partners that are beyond your knowledge and understanding. For example, resettlement issues are frequently a confusing area for refugees and volunteers alike. Another area of concern relates to specific mental health needs such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. Public aid and medical assistance regulations also can be very technical. Case managers are available who have the specialized skill needed to handle these issues. If your refugee partner needs help that you can’t provide, contact a WRHP case manager.
How do I know that a refugee doesn’t have a criminal background? An FBI “name check” is done prior to a refugee’s admittance to the U.S. Refugees coming from countries that are a current terrorist threat must go through a more extensive background check. Nevertheless, it is wise to take any general precautions with your refugee partner that might apply with any new acquaintance.
Can I be held liable for the actions of my refugee partner? No, as in any other circumstances in the U.S., any individual is not held legally responsible for the actions of another adult.
Is it possible that my refugee partner may have a communicable disease? All refugees are screened before and after their arrival to the United States, and any conditions from mild to major will be noted on their health forms. Active TB, leprosy, and HIV are three diseases that may cause a refugee to be termed a “medical denial.”
Are there any health precautions I need to take for myself? Because refugees come from poor sanitary situations, it is essential that you wash your hands after working with them in order to avoid infections such as colds, dysentery, etc. Also, we recommend that you avoid kissing children.
Can I bring my kids to volunteer? Absolutely! We encourage you to involve your children in developing friendship and service with refugees. What better picture could they get of being a blessing to the nations?
What can we do when a family has become independent and doesn’t need our help meeting immediate needs? If your refugee family has reached sustainability, this is a wonderful marker in their journey here! Hopefully you have grown in friendship with them over the past months. Our goal from the start was for them to grow in friendship with you, while becoming progressively less dependent upon you. From this point on, we encourage you to continue in friendship with them, just as you would with any other friend. It is likely that they will still have periodic questions, and you are in the perfect position to continue offering them that advice or help. As you continue in your friendship, we would encourage you to consider beginning friendship with another refugee/family.