Who We Are
The Committee on Refugees is a voluntary advocacy project based within the UNA-USA Dallas Chapter, open to participation by the community-at-large as well as members of our organization. Founded by Linda Abramson Evans, the project was initially a program-planning committee creating refugee topic seminars (“Refugee Women at Risk”) for the 1998 North Texas UN Conference on Women. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) representative to the U.S. & Caribbean was invited to address global issues. Resettlement and other service agencies (members of the Dallas Area Refugee Forum and Metroplex Refugee Network coalitions) were invited to share local refugee issues and needs. The Volunteer Guide to Refugee Service Agencies in Dallas/Fort Worth including the “Directory of Refugee Service Agencies” resource contact list was developed based on needs-analysis interviews with agency representatives, and distributed as a handout to conference attendees for follow-up action. The Committee on Refugees affiliated with UNA Dallas in 1999, continuing to operate as a liaison facilitating volunteerism for DFW area refugee service agencies.
What We Do
The Committee raises awareness of refugee issues, emphasizes that refugees enhance our community as contributing members of society, and networks for volunteers to assist with the short-term needs of new arrivals. Volunteers are referred to the resettlement services that assist refugees with housing, cultural orientation, ESL classes, job training, and employment. Additional categories of service providers assist asylum-seekers and victims of torture, and some offer a broader range of medical, mental health, and social services in the community. The Committee Chair also serves on refugee agency Advisory Councils, assists with agency event planning and promotion, arranges speaking opportunities for agency representatives at community organizations, participates in advocacy actions, and maintains and distributes the Volunteer Guide/Directory.
Who is a Refugee
According to the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, a refugee is someone who has left his or her country because of a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, social group, or political opinion. Refugees are often part of mass migrations due to conflicts and generalized violence. Under U.S. Refugee Policy, they may apply for and be granted protection while still outside the U.S. Others who are targeted for persecution and flee individually must apply and hope for protection as asylum-seekers after arriving in the U.S.
How You Can Help
Volunteers are regarded by the service-providing agencies as essential community partners. Individuals, companies, schools, community organizations, religious groups – anyone can get involved. Refer to the Volunteer Guide for examples of useful actions, and the contact information for each agency. Also of great help is to share the message: Refugees add value and are neighbors worth knowing.
Chair, Committee on Refugees
UNA-USA Dallas Chapter