The refugee family meets a friendly face and receive a warm welcome to the United States. They desperately need mentors to help them navigate this new, unfamiliar culture.
You, the host family, have an opportunity to learn about another culture firsthand and broaden your knowledge about the world. It is also a great way to introduce a volunteer service and cross-cultural experience to your children.
Where are they from?
Our families typically come from dangerous and frightening situations in their homelands. Most have had family members and friends killed in their war-torn countries. Often they have been living in crowded, unsanitary refugee camps for several years prior to being sent here.
Most families placed in Cleveland are from Myanmar, Iraq, and Nepal.
We will provide a background sheet so you understand a little about your refugee family and their country before you meet for the first time.
We are also available any time you need guidance, insight, or advice.
How does ISC help?
The International Services Center (ISC), located in downtown Cleveland, has been assisting refugees, immigrants, and other new citizens since 1916.
The agency coordinates all aspects of refugee resettlement, including English and acculturation classes; job training and employment assistance; securing affordable housing and school enrollment.
Refugees regularly visit the agency – every day when they first arrive – for it is their lifeline during the tough transition to a new home far away and far different from their own.
In essence, the ISC is the refugees’ support system and teacher during the first year of adjusting to their new life.
- Your main role is to provide emotional support.
- Put yourselves in their shoes. Think of how you might feel if you were forced to leave your country and start a new life – without knowing a friend, the culture or the language. What “survival skills” would you want to know?
- Initially, they will have very little money, no car, and possibly no job. Come up with free or low-cost activities they can enjoy, such as the library and metroparks. Go to the grocery store, introduce a new food, perhaps cook a meal together?
- Weekly visits by at least one family member are recommended to get to know the family and maintain regular contact. This lets them know they are not alone.
- There is no financial expectation for host families to give anything to their refugee family. However, if you feel moved to give a gift or donation, we ask that you please gift through the agency directly.
We appreciate your gift of time and effort to help our refugees make a new and better home for themselves and their families in Cleveland.
Thank you for giving them your open arms and hearts! Remember, you will be their first American friends outside of the ISC.
To find out more about becoming a mentor, contact us using the volunteer form to the right.