Refugee Support Fund
We are dedicated to providing a warm welcome to newly resettled Syrian refugee families. Our goal is to welcome these families into our neighborhood community, foster their financial independence, and assist them in becoming confident new citizens.
Become a Monthly Donor
By becoming a monthly donor, your ongoing contribution will help sustain the programs and services that our community members rely on.
Sirat Chicago is an Illinois registered non-profit 501(c)(3). Donations over $2.50 will be tax-deductible for individuals, groups and corporations, please consult with your tax adviser.
Working with many volunteers from the Partnership for the Advancement of Refugee Rights (PARR), a student organization at the University of Chicago:
Community ESL Class – to help native speakers of Arabic become proficient in the English Language. Certified ESL teachers preside over this class and train our volunteers in best practices for ESL. The Chicago Theological Seminary has generously lent us classroom space for this program. A team of enthusiastic volunteers provides our families with one-on-one support in the class as well as child-care so that the parents can focus on English Language acquisition. This program fills a major gap since prior to this point there was no ESL class available for native Arabic speakers in Hyde Park.
Ansar Program – pairs individual volunteer mentors to the adult members of the families. These volunteers, who we call our “ansar” which means helper in Arabic, assist adult family members with creating a tailored plan for finding better employment and help them fulfill this plan. This may include working with them on a resume, helping them identify potential jobs, pursuing certification, working with them on marketing materials, and connecting them to potential employers.
About the 6 month Resettlement Process & How Your Donations are Used
Both during and after the initial 6 month Resettlement period has ended, there are numerous needs and serious gaps to fill. Our local community has helped fill the gaps in education, cultural training, employment, and English language acquisition. Also, if we can help pay down their debt (~1000/family member) to the International Office of Migration (IOM) these families can focus on the many challenges involved in building their future here. 100% of your donations to the Sirat Community Support Team are used to support our local families in Hyde Park.
IOM International Organization for Migration issues travel loans to families for airfare to the US. The State Department facilitates arrival to the US and assigns them to a VOLAG (VOLuntary AGency) which continue to facilitate the logistics of their resettlement. The VOLAGs in turn assign families to a state. These loans must eventually be repaid by each family.
At the STATE level, in the City of Chicago, the families are assigned to one of four resettlement agencies: Refugee One, World Relief Chicago, Heartland Alliance, or the Ethiopian Community Association. These resettlement agencies are charged with raising funds to sponsor the family and support them for the critical first 3-6 months after they arrive in the United States. 3–6 months of support includes:
- identifying housing and paying rent
- facilitating medical check-ups
- familiarizing families with public transportation
- applying for social security cards and state identification
- enrolling them in state sponsored benefit programs (food stamps, TANF),
- enrolling adults in ESL programs and children in schools
- identifying initial employment opportunity.
SUPPORTING SPONSOR (SCN) – After six months, these four resettlement agencies no longer provide financial assistance or translation services (e.g. help reading the mail, etc.). The Syrian Community Network continues to fill in and provide critical rental assistance and mentorship to the families beyond the six month period.
LOCAL COMMUNITIES (SIRAT) – when the families are no longer under the purview of resettlement agencies, they are officially on their own. Despite the lattice of support that Resettlement and Sponsor Agencies provide, 6 months is never enough time for a family to adjust to school, permanent employment or to become proficient in English and navigate the complexities of government agencies and the transit system. This is when your support is needed most!
About Our Partners & Neighborhood Resources
- Marina Rioux (Partnership for the Advancement of Refugee Rights/UChicago): We helped match volunteers to help with homework, translators and the ESL class. Nadia Khan, a doctoral candidate at the University of Chicago is the coordinator and liaison between PARR as a student member and a Sirat Chicago Community Support Team leader.
- Dr. Tahera Qutbuddin/UChicago NELC Department: volunteers have helped with critical support. Their volunteers are now working with a local church congregation.
- Dorothy Pytel (Hyde Park Refugee Project/Augustana Lutheran Church/Refugee One): We are frequently in touch about sharing resources, our ESL class, facilitating trainings and background checks via SCN.
- We work to fulfill any needs that the The Syrian Community Network identifies for us. SCN provides direction, facilitation and contact information. We pray that Allah bless the good work they are doing and allow us to continue supporting their efforts.
- SCN coordinates the Background Checks/Training required for all volunteers working directly with the families.
- SCN knows each and every family resettled in Chicagoland, they keep us posted when a new family comes to the area.
Here’s how you can help
- Donate to the Community Support Fund.
- In-Kind Donations. We need the exact items on this Amazon Wish List. We are unable to accept other types of in-kind donations at this time. If you have these items, please contact Saffa Khan firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are already volunteering or in touch with the families, please contact email@example.com so we can coordinate efforts efficiently as needed.