“Have you run across a rice cooker? How about a men’s razor? And shower curtain rings?” Nick asked, looking up from his checklist. These are just a few of the items the IRC provides to newly arrived refugee families; others include: plumped pillows, silverware, a hot meal, shampoo, a kitchen table… the list goes on. The motto of the IRC is ‘from harm to home,’ and there are teams of dedicated staff members ensuring that every family has not only a house, but a home.
As I organized pots and pans and set the clock on the microwave, I thought about the family that would live here. What would the mother make for dinner? Would it make more sense to have the cooking oil above the stove or right next to it? Where do the potholders go? Should I unwrap the silverware so it is more homey or leave it in plastic so they know it’s new?
This apartment was the first I’d ever set up, but our Logistics Coordinator Nick Brown has organized hundreds. “The process of coming to the United States can be an exceptionally trying and draining process for a refugee. The trip takes many hours, if not days to complete, and once the individual or family arrives they still face challenges in assimilating to their new community. Having a furnished apartment with beds made, the toiletries laid out, food in the fridge and plates in the cupboards can be a huge relief for the weary.”
The IRC in Seattle, on average, receives two to three refugee families per week, and they are all given a furnished apartment. Coordinating this requires an immense amount of organization and community support, but the result, giving refugee families a toehold in their new country, is well worth the effort.