Resettlement Basics

Resettlement Basics

Helping Refugees Understand Finances

Refugee Resettlement: Role of the Local Community

Historically, the U.S. refugee program has been characterized as an effective model of public-private partnership. Through private and government funding, and with the help of concerned individuals and voluntary organizations, refugees are properly resettled, adjust to their new homes, and achieve early self-sufficiency.

Often local organizations, such as faith groups and local voluntary organizations in the community, agree to serve as co-sponsors for newly arriving refugees. Generally, co-sponsors are asked to make a three-month commitment to assist resettlement agencies in provision of core services, including:

 Transportation to appointments and job interviews
 Help with job applications, interview skills and work practices
 School enrollment, applications for Social Security cards
 English training, cultural orientation
 Assist in providing and furnishing housing
 Emotional support, prayer

Individuals who are not a part of a co-sponsoring organization are encouraged to volunteer one-on-one with a refugee. Here are some typical needs:

  • English Tutoring - For many refugees, learning English is the first step to achieving self-sufficiency. Volunteers help children with homework and adults with learning the vocabulary needed to secure a job.
  • Mentoring - A mentor can help a refugee adjust to American culture by sharing knowledge and experience, such as by showing how to navigate the bus system, explaining use of bank accounts, or taking a child to a museum.
  • Translation - Bilingual individuals can share their foreign language skills by translating a document or interpreting at a parent-teacher conference.
  • Health Care - Although Medicaid provides limited medical services to refugees, volunteers are needed to help refugees navigate the health care system and connect with free or reduced-rate routine medical care and services to heal from the physical or emotional trauma they may have endured.
  • Employment Advocacy - Most refugees have valuable work skills and are ready to work soon after arrival in their new communities. Volunteers are needed to locate job openings, help complete job applications, and assist in interview preparation.

The emphasis of co-sponsorship is transitioning refugees to independence, especially economically and occupationally, as quickly as possible. As a refugee gains independence they cease to be a refugee and become a neighbor and friend, we are all enriched. 

Helping refugees understand U.S. finances 


By W. Evan Golder


As part of River City Saturday, Alan Headbloom and Dave Treul of Plymouth Congregational UCC in Grand Rapids spoke at a workshop, Baghdad to Grand Rapids: Welcoming Iraqi Refugees. With them was Thoraya Bashi, the wife and mother in an Iraqi family of five sponsored by their church.


Among the topics discussed were these 10 financial tips of refugee resettlement:

  1. The U.S. financial system is sophisticated with traps and challenges. Much help will be needed.
  2. Money is a very personal topic: go slow, don’t judge, but build trust.
  3. Money management skills: family may already have these, but also may not; provide instruction but let them make decisions.
  4. Employment expectations/initial rental decision: What was the family’s original income before they became refugees? Help them match their first housing to realistic income expectations.
  5. Banking services and bill paying: explain what’s available, advise them, but don’t decide for them.
  6. Sorting through the mail: Help them learn what’s important, what’s “junk mail,” and how we know the difference.
  7. What about a car? Would it be better to locate on a bus route and learn the routine?
  8. Financial self-sufficiency is the goal. Work to promote independence.
  9. Assumptions about English. Don’t assume that they know English. If they can speak English, don’t assume that this means they can write and  read it, including legal notices, want ads, welfare forms, traffic signs, etc.
  10. Your church’s financial commitment: What is it? For how long? What is your realistic ability to fund emergency gaps?

Contact Info

Mary Schaller Blaufuss
Team Leader, Global Sharing of Resources
700 Prospect Ave.
Cleveland, OH 44115