When Refugees Need Help, HIAS Volunteers Step Up

By Max J. Rosenthal, HIAS.org, Adrian Carey, HIAS volunteer, and Sybile Penhirin, HIAS volunteer

*This video by HIAS volunteers Adrian Carey and Sybile Penhirin was filmed before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. HIAS continues to follow social distancing guidelines and allow staff to work remotely.

When someone wants to apply for asylum in the United States, HIAS’ attorneys are there to help. But what happens if that person needs more than a lawyer? Around 1,700 volunteers are there, too.

SaraJane Renfroe, a HIAS program officer for partnerships and volunteer services, coordinates a network that includes those volunteers and other organizations. Renfroe speaks with asylum seekers and resettled refugees who need help working toward self-sufficiency and then tries to "match the client’s need to a resource," she says. Those resources, known as “wraparound services,” cover everything from food and housing needs to longer-term help like English tutoring (as in the video above) or career mentorship. 

Cynthia Katz, HIAS’ supervising attorney in New York, says the program is a “really distinctive” and valuable part of HIAS’ work. “It’s great to be able to refer someone that you know has that need — and is of limited financial means — to a resource that will give that person access to top-notch services,” she says.

HIAS offers many ways for the public to get involved with helping refugees, even amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Visit our Volunteer page for more information on how you can help.

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