How to help Syrian refugees in Seattle

While the rest of the country has been embroiled in an ugly and often ignorant debate about resettling Syrian refugees, the reaction here in the Seattle area has been very different.

Last weekend more than a hundred people gathered at a rally to show their support for resettling refugees here (see my speech from the rally above). Our local politicians were among the first in the nation to make similar statements of welcome. And here at the Seattle Globalist we’ve been hearing from a lot of readers like you asking what you can do to help Syrian refugees during this time of crisis.

The way you’ve opened up your hearts and homes shows the truly amazing spirit of our city. But when it comes to the specifics of how to help, the answers are a little complicated.

Here’s a quick guide on how to help Syrian refugees right now:

Advocate for higher refugee quotas

When citizens lobby their elected officials, they can have real influence on policy, says Bob Johnson of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), an organization specializing in refugee resettlement. Right now, the U.S. is capped at taking in a total of 10,000 Syrian refugees a year.

You can write letters to your federal representatives asking for higher quotas for refugee acceptance, and show your support through direct, grassroots action. Americans for Refugees & Immigrants and other groups have been hosting rallies like the one last weekend to show support for allowing more refugees in the U.S.

“Given that there aren’t really many Syrians in the pipeline that are approved and travel ready, I doubt that we would see an increase here in the near future,” Johnson says. But the sooner we can get Congress to increase the cap, the sooner we can start bringing in more of the millions of Syrians needing refuge.

Donate to direct aid organizations

Tons of NGOs are on the ground in Europe and the Middle East distributing necessities to Syrians in need. Medical Teams International packages hygiene and baby care kits. They have distribution centers where kits are assembled, and are in need of volunteers, donations, supplied, and notes of encouragement to send to refugees in need.

A volunteer doctor working with Seattle aid organization the Salaam Cultural Museum examines a Syrian refugee child in Jordan. (Photo by Alisa Reznick)
A volunteer doctor working with Seattle aid organization the Salaam Cultural Museum examines a Syrian refugee child in Jordan. (Photo by Alisa Reznick)

Volunteer with Syrian refugee orgs outside the US

A few organizations actually send volunteers abroad to help Syrian refugees on the peripheries of the conflict. Open Homes, Open Hearts US is seeking volunteers “to make and serve food, change diapers and clothing for children, disperse donated supplies and at times, even pull families out of the water.” You can also donate money to fund volunteers who are going.

Help other refugees who are already here

While there haven’t been very many Syrian refugees resettled in Washington yet, there are plenty of refugees in our region from other conflict zones, and more are arriving every day.

There’s no regular process to host refugee families in your home long term. But they do need help with things like learning English, finding a job, getting their apartment set up, and adapting to life in the Northwest. World Relief, IRC and Lutheran Community Services are the three main refugee resettlement agencies in Washington, and they all have volunteer programs that allow you to help.

Lutheran Community Services also has a program placing refugees who are unaccompanied minors with foster parents. Details here.

Other local organizations that are helping:

Did I leave anything out? Add your own recommendations for great aid organizations, initiatives, rallies and actions in the comments.

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12 Comments

  1. I just donated some baby supplies for the Refugee Women’s Alliance (the kid grows fast! – but they were thrilled to have diapers & blankets) Great organization helping locally: http://www.rewa.org

  2. I am reading your article from Jordan where I am volunteering with Seattle based Studio Syria – an organization that brings educational and art supplies to Syrian refugees. Donations can be made on the web site. studiosyria.org

    This is a very small and lean organization in which 93% of all donations are spent in the field. We work in Zaatari Refugee Camp and in rural and urban settings. We remind children and adults of the joys of creative learning. Please see the blog for recent updates and like the Facebook to follow along.

    Thanks Seattle Globalist.

  3. Neighborhood House is a 109 year old organization that helps primarily refugees and immigrants once they are here in Seattle. We offer ESL classes, adult education and employment help, preschool and early learning programs, and youth programs. We have a long history of helping each wave of new refugees over the years and will welcome Syrian refugees when they arrive.
    Donation and volunteer opportunities can be found on our website, http://www.nhwa.org.

  4. Thanks for the shout out! :)

    Also, there are two other refugee resettlement agencies in Washington – Jewish Family Services, and Episcopal Migration Ministries.

  5. In partnership with the Pacifica Institute, Lutheran Community Services Northwest(LCSN) is scheduled to host a Fundraising Brunch on Sunday, December 13 at 1.30 pm to benefit refugees resettling in King County from several countries including Syria. The event marks the latest in a series of efforts to relocate and resettle refugees from war torn parts of the world and to learn their stories.

    The launch party offers journalists and the larger Seattle community an opportunity to know to stories of two youths who have successfully graduated from the LCSN program, and one Yazidee woman from the Kurdistan region of Iraq whose husband worked as an interpreter for the US Army.

    The LCSN will discuss the current needs within the local refugee community as well as how specific programs address these needs.

    The event will take place at the Pacifica Institute office at 13219 NE 20th St, Suite 209, Bellevue, WA 98005. Those interested in attending are encouraged to RSVP to seattle@pacificainstitute.org.

  6. In partnership with the Pacifica Institute, Lutheran Community Services Northwest(LCSN) is scheduled to host a Fundraising Brunch on Sunday, December 13 at 1.30 pm to benefit refugees resettling in King County from several countries including Syria. The event marks the latest in a series of efforts to relocate and resettle refugees from war torn parts of the world and to learn their stories.
    The launch party offers journalists and the larger Seattle community an opportunity to know to stories of two youths who have successfully graduated from the LCSN program, and one Yazidee woman from the Kurdistan region of Iraq whose husband worked as an interpreter for the US Army.
    The event will take place at the Pacifica Institute office at 13219 NE 20th St, Suite 209, Bellevue, WA 98005. Those interested in attending are encouraged to RSVP to seattle@pacificainstitute.org.

    1. Your comments are not wanted here. You are lucky you are not in a war torn country and instead of helping people who have lost everything you are trolling the Internet and leaving hateful words. Go away no one here cares about what you think.

      1. Apparently there are some seriously sick people in the state of Washington and primarily in Seattle Washington they turn that beautiful city into a sanctuary hell hole with criminal Muslims and in criminal illegal aliens running around having havoc on the taxpayers. The problem is that Seattle keep selecting these stupid Democrat people they don’t know any better they want to turn Seattle into Calais or Berlin or Sweden or the crime is through the roof and these people are too stupid to figure it out for themselves I got to listen everything the Democrats brainwash them to do it’s disgusting I be saying to myself you are a very very an American you liberal Democrat piece of s***

        1. Your comment is not welcome, however, you are free to make it. The best thing about the First Amendment is it allows people like you to self identify. It is regretful you are trapped in a vortex of mental illness. I say regretful because being unable to see your own delusional ugliness confines you to a state of unhappiness and fear. As with the ranting man on the street corner, the more you are reasoned with the more you rant. Peace be with you.

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