Associate Volunteer Spotlight: Barb Fonda

barbfonda

What can you tell me about your ministry?My new ministry is assisting in refugee resettlement for the International Rescue Committee (IRC), Denver Office. IRC is one of nine national resettlement agencies charged with providing services for immigrants selected for admission to the United States. This ministry involves the Denver associates’ outreach as well.

What services do you provide?
The goal of IRC is to help newly arrived immigrants become self-sufficient as quickly as possible. Housing, furniture and household items are provided immediately through both monetary (public/private) and in-kind donations. Language classes are contracted through school districts, and in-depth cultural orientation is offered through IRC personnel and volunteers. Immigrants are assisted with job search and transportation issues. In general, we advocate for immigrants and provide services to ease their transition to life in the United States.

How did this ministry start for you?
I’d been looking for some way to be of some service to refugees, especially in the wake of the Syrian humanitarian crisis. Sister Dolores Bland and I attend a local Curves gym where, one day, we found a list of items needed for housing refugees at IRC. After visiting their office with my own donated items, I signed up for orientation and a background check to become an official volunteer. Since then, we’ve been collecting needed items from the CSJ community, parish, and book club friends, and making trips to deliver the needed items. I’m looking forward to more involvement in sorting donated items, providing cultural education, and teaching shopping techniques to the newly arrived families.

What are the challenges you have faced?
Currently, the biggest challenge is the unpredictability of future admission of immigrants to this country, followed by probable diminishment of federal funding. The work of IRC will continue because we are responsible for continuing to help current “settled” families on their road to self-sufficiency. If immigration bans are lifted, we will continue to collect and distribute household donations and encourage monetary donations.

Are more people needed to help in this ministry and if so, in what ways can they help?
IRC’s website, rescue.org, gives information about the work of the International Rescue Committee in this country and provides links to volunteer and donation information.

How does your volunteer ministry reflect our charism of loving unity?
The actions of all the many people involved in immigrant resettlement most definitely reflect the love of the dear neighbor without any distinction of color, creed, ethnicity, status, etc. These refugee brothers and sisters are some of the most vulnerable of the world, often fleeing from death-threatening situations, always needing our welcoming love in their new country.

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