Welcoming Refugees through Good Neighbor Teams:
A Good Neighbor Team is a small group of people from a local church or community that partner with World Relief to welcome and walk alongside a newly arrived refugee family. Our goal is for each refugee that arrives to feel the warm welcome of the local church and community.
Time and again, Good Neighbor Teams have found that, while refugees may have some significant needs as they first arrive and face the challenges of adjustment, they also can be an incredible blessing to the community that receives them. Our goal at World Relief is to help facilitate these long-term reciprocal relationships.
World Relief staff provide thorough training as well as ongoing support for each Good Neighbor Team as we live out our mission of empowering the local church to serve the most vulnerable. Once a team has formed and been trained they will be partnered with a refugee family. Teams will work with World Relief staff to determine in what ways they will assist the family, which often include:
1) Preparing for Arrival: Even before the refugee family arrives, their Good Neighbor Team works with World Relief staff to gather the basic household items and furnishings a family will need to begin their new lives in the United States. We encourage Good Neighbor Teams to commit to praying for this family’s adjustment even before they arrive. In most cases, members of the Good Neighbor Team are present at the airport for the refugee family's arrival to offer a greeting that conveys that these new neighbors, who have been forced out of their country of origin by persecution, are welcome in this new community.
2) Resettlement & Adjustment: In the first weeks and months in the United States, refugees have many appointments, orientations, and new skille to learn. Some teams may partner with World Relief to assist with tasks such as securing a state ID, learning where and how to buy groceries, using public transportation, or even greeting someone in English. These tasks help empower the family to move towards self-sufficiency, all while providing a sense of community and allowing for greater relationship development.
3) Friendship: Members of the Good Neighbor Team commit to visiting the refugee family they are befriending on at least a weekly basis for the first several months that the family is in the community. Those visits often provide opportunities to help practice English, provide orientation to American culture, and meet other practical needs, but the primary goal is to offer genuine, mutual friendship.
4) Financial Support: We encourage each Good Neighbor Team to partner with World Relief financially to contribute to the overall support of refugees in the region and to help support World Relief as we facilitate this ministry and support churches and community members as they engage.
Before investing in a relationship with a refugee family as a Good Neighbor Team, we want to first invest in you. It is important to us that you feel ready and confident going into this experience. The following trainings are provided for your team:
- Volunteer Training: This 4 hour training, which is offered monthly, will help equip Good Neighbor Team members to fulfill their role. Good Neighbor Teams can view times, locations and sign up for training on World Relief’s website at www.worldreliefhighpoint.org/volunteer-application-process-0. Training includes:
- World Relief: History and mission overview.
- Cultural Differences and Cross Cultural Communication: Navigation of cultural differences and skills for communication with people of varying English language ability.
- Helping Without Hurting: Concepts on how to love and serve refugees in a way that is empowering, protects from burnout, and opens opportunity for meaningful relationship building.
- Refugee Resettlement: Resettlement process, challenges refugees face, available funds and services, and loss simulation.
- Volunteer Guidelines and Tips: Social media use, communication, and best practices.
- ESL Training (optional): This 3 hour training is offered quarterly and is designed to equip those who would like to help with ESL teaching, tutoring, or functioning as a conversation partner for those learning English. This is not required for Good Neighbor Teams but can serve as a great tool for those who would like to serve in one of these roles with a family they are partnered with.
Open and regular communication between World Relief and the Good Neighbor Team is essential and is a priority for World Relief. Our desire is to support and empower you throughout your Good Neighbor Team experience.
1. Getting Started: Church Engagement Director, Joe McCann, will lead you through the initial process of recruiting and forming a team and will work with the team leader to select a refugee family to partner with and complete the Good Neighbor Team Agreement. Joe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 336-823-6972.
2. Preparing for Arrival: Pre-arrival Volunteer Coordinator, Rob Cassel, will coordinate with the team in setting up the home or welcoming the family at the airport. Rob can be reached at email@example.com or 336-822-9809.
3. Resettlement Process: The case manager for the family will be the team’s primary contact throughout the resettlement period (primarily the first 3 months). The team will be provided with the case manager’s contact info after a refugee family has been selected for the team to be partnered with.
4. Communication Format: It is recommended that teams utilize a group communication format. Previous teams have used private Facebook groups or the #Slack website and smartphone app. #Slack is a free group messaging app/website with a lot of great features. You can learn more and create an account at www.Slack.com.
5. 3 Month Debriefing: Midway through the GNT experience we will provide a deeper check-in to debrief the experience, celebrate victories, and work through any issues that have come up.
6. 6 Month Celebration and Survey: After 6 months World Relief will meet with the team or team leader to share stories, discuss lessons learned, talk through a survey to help World Relief grow and adjust, and discuss the future.
We ask Good Neighbor Teams to commit to serve and walk with their partnered refugees for a minimum of six months after their arrival to the U.S. Although the initial Refugee Resettlement Program that World Relief works through is a 3 month program, refugee’s need for community, empowerment, and assistance with adjustment to reach self-sufficiency and assimilation stretches beyond three months. GNTs engage with refugees during their initial resettlement period and continue to walk through life with them beyond these three months.
The main goal of the Good Neighbor Team is to form a mutually-beneficial relationship and friendship with their partnered refugees, which will happen through consistently spending time together and intentionally building community. We do, however, recognize that occasionally refugee families may move away or not be open to relationship building and this may affect the 6 month commitment. We also recognize that you cannot put a time limit on a friendship, so the hope is that throughout the process the team and the refugee family continually transition from service to friendships that may last beyond 6 months.
Weekly time commitment for team members may vary throughout the Good Neighbor Team experience, varying from team to team based on the number of team members, level of commitment, and the needs of the refugee family. Generally, Good Neighbor Teams will volunteer more during the pre-arrival, arrival day, and early part of the resettlement period as these involve more administrative tasks and specific appointments or services.
The Good Neighbor Team financial partnership is an opportunity for the team, church, or organization to contribute to the overall support of refugees through World Relief. World Relief asks Good Neighbor Teams for a contribution of $1000 through one time or monthly giving. This is not required and should never be a barrier to engaging as a Good Neighbor Team, but it is a great way to support the larger refugee resettlement efforts in the region.
Additionally some teams may decide to set aside funds that may be used to help purchase household goods, initial groceries to stock the home, for potential emergency needs that may arise, or to help in an area that will empower the family, such as assistance with registering a car or getting needed tools for a new job. This is not required and should never be a barrier to getting involved. Ultimately, time and friendship are the most valuable commodities that a team can offer.
Good Neighbor Team Agreement:
Once the Good Neighbor Team and World Relief have agreed upon a specific refugee family to partner with, an agreement will be completed and signed. The agreement will include basic biographical information on the refugee case and on the Good Neighbor Team. The agreement form also lists several categories with a list of tasks or responsibilities per category. The team and World Relief staff will determine responsibility for the tasks on the list based on the availability, skills, and passions of the Good Neighbor Team. This allows the agreement to be customized to fit the specific team and provides clear communication of responsibility for both the Good Neighbor Team and World Relief.
Dividing Responsibility within the Team:
We suggest dividing responsibilities among members of the Good Neighbor Team by category. This assures that everyone on the team becomes involved and keeps the team leader or other member from assuming all the responsibility. We find it best to assign a point person to oversee each category that the Team agrees to help with. The point person would then assure completion of the task that the team commits to which falls under their category. For example, the point person for the Health Care category may assist the family in schedule a doctor’s appointment. They may then ask other team members for assistance with transportation to the appointment. Having one person that all team members refer to and share information with for each category also helps avoid confusion and unnecessary doubling of efforts by the team. Based on the size of the group, the level of responsibility within different categories, and availability, some team members may oversee more than one category. There may be categories that the team agrees to not engage in and therefore not assign a point person.
- Team Leader
· Help coordinate the group as a whole
· Assure team member are fulfilling their responsibilities
· Function as the primary contact for World Relief
· Assure team members log volunteer time and donations
· Help find housing
· Stock house with furniture and supplies
· Home orientation
· Help address needs such as repairs (check w/ World Relief before contacting landlord)
- Social Services/Social Security
· Assist with applying for a Social Security Card
· Assist in registering with Department of Social Services for Food Stamps, Medicaid, and Refugee Cash Assistance or Work First
· Assist with enrollment in the WIC Program (if applicable)
· Assist adults with enrollment in ESL classes
· Assist with enrolling children in school
· Help arrange school bus or other transportation to and from school
· Tutor and/or arrange tutors for ESL and/or children’s schooling
- Health Care
· Assist with initial health assessment appointment
· Assist with securing primary care and referral health care providers
· Help coordinate overall health care
· Help coordinate vaccinations (needed for Green Card)
· Assist in finding dentist that takes Medicaid
· Help coordinate overall dental care
· Assist in setting up bank account
· Teach how to pay bills
· Coach family on budgeting, managing resources, and building credit history
· Teach use of public transportation
· Assist in securing drivers permits
· Give or arrange driving lessons/practice
· Assist with seeking out employment opportunities
· Assist with job applications and preparation for interviews
· Help arrange transportation to interviews and employment
The online volunteer toolkit is full of helpful information and instruction manuals. For example, Good Neighbor Teams can use the toolkit to find a list of items needed for the refugee’s home, a culturally appropriate grocery list, or an instruction manual on exactly how to assist a refugee in applying for their Social Security Card. The toolkit should serve as a Good Neighbor Team’s first stop for information and instruction.
The Volunteer Toolkit can be found at www.worldreliefhighpoint.org/toolkit.
Logging Volunteer Time and Donations:
Below are the steps to log all your volunteer hours, mileage, and donations. Please make sure to list the refugee’s family/individual names in the note section.
2. Enter your information
3. Click Sign Up
4. You can then begin logging hours
5. The app for smartphones is called OURVOLTS. You can download and access it once you have registered online.
These are the fields you will need to fill out when logging:
1. Hours: How much time you spent volunteering
2. Date Volunteered
3. Activity: For times you are just hanging out with a client you can pick “community orientation”
4. Mileage: Only to be logged for the act of volunteering. Not the drive to and from your home, unless the client is with you.
5. Notes: Details on a donation, amount spent, if it was for a specific client, details on what you did during the time listed, etc…. (Always list First and Last name of client you worked with).
A strong committed team leader is essential for a successful Good Neighbor Team. Team leaders develop the team, assure team members complete the volunteer application process, serve as a liaison between the team and World Relief, provide follow up with team members to assure tasks are being completed, assure team members register their volunteer time and donations with World Relief, and generally coordinate the Good Neighbor Team.
Things to Keep in Mind:
Avoid Assumptions: With only a small amount of biographical information, it is important that Good Neighbor Teams avoid assumptions about the family they will be welcoming. Are they educated or uneducated, outgoing or reserved, will they be appreciative or proud, open or shut off, etc Refugees are as unique and diverse as we all are. As a Good Neighbor Team, it is important to be ready to love and support whoever steps off the airplane as you fulfill the role God has called you to play in the refugee family’s life.
Team Unity: The most effective teams communicate well and are unified. In preparation for and during the Good Neighbor Team experience we recommend doing some team building exercises, working through a book, or studying together. The “When Helping Hurts, Small Group Study” is good to read through. If the team is not a preexisting group that already meets regularly, we recommend a monthly get together for planning and assessing.
Learn About the Refugee’s Culture: Once you know the ethnicity and religion of the refugee family you will be partnering with, you can do some research in order to better understand the culture they are coming from and the conflict they may have fled. You can find some helpful resources on the Volunteer Toolkit at www.worldreliefhighpoint.org/cultural-information.