I Welcome Refugees: 3 ways to take action

iwelcomerefugeesPresident Trump’s Executive Order has sparked concern for many people about the future of the refugee resettlement program. With 21 million refugees worldwide, the international community cannot ignore the desperate situations many families find themselves in. Resettlement is a way for a small number of these individuals to find safety and freedom.

Here at WTAP, we have had an outpouring of support from people across the political spectrum in support of refugees. Many of you are mobilized and want to “do something” to support refugees, but aren’t sure what is needed.

No matter where you live, here are three ways to turn that energy into productive action:

  1. Advocate– You have a voice. Make sure your legislators, state and federal, know that you support refugee resettlement. Share accurate information about the process, the refugees in your community, and personal stories.
  2. Become an Ambassador– We need all the help we can get spreading accurate information about refugees and the work we do to welcome and support them. Help us grow our tribe of community members mobilized to provide positive integration. Commit to invite 10 friends, family, co-workers, or business colleagues, to a WTAP tour or invite us to present to your group. Not from AZ, become a social media ambassador. Contact collin.cunningham@wtap.org to pledge your commitment.
  3. Donate– As long as there is the need, WTAP will continue to grow our programs to provide support and a warm welcome to refugee families. Now more than ever, community support is vital to refugee resettlement. Give generously to ensure that all refugees receive a dignified home and a neighborly welcome.

October 7, 2001

15 years ago today, still reeling from the loss of her brother-in-law in the 9/11 original-tribune-photo-articleterrorist attacks, Carolyn Manning was drawn to a powerful image of a young refugee family on the front page of a local newspaper. This mother, father, and four children, with a fifth on the way, sat together in a noticeably barren and unwelcoming apartment.

Carolyn would come to find out that the young family had fled Afghanistan after also suffering at the hands of the same terrorist organization that had brought down the Twin Towers, killing her brother-in-law. She yearned to connect with this family who uniquely shared in her family’s suffering. This image and Carolyn’s subsequent actions were seeds of compassion that grew into the Welcome to America Project.

Check out this video about how the Welcome to America Project got started.

Volunteer Spotlight: Annette Bouw

How long have you been volunteering with WTAP?14247690_10209124343298738_128295454_o
I have been volunteering with WTAP for almost 4 years now.
Tell me about some of the people you’ve met while working with WTAP?

I have met wonderful community volunteers from all walks of life, backgrounds and from all ages. Our Youngestvolunteer has been Abby Anhalt who has volunteered multiple times with her mother Adina, and some of our seniorvolunteers have been the “Golden Girls” Laura, Connie and Denise who showed me the ins and outs of how we sort, organize and pack items for our refugee families when I first began. At that point they had been activelyvolunteering weekly for about 5 years. That is dedication!

Why do you choose to donate your time to WTAP?
As the daughter of a refugee, my Dad George who came to the United States through the IRC in 1950, I know the plight of the refugee families from within my own family and understand the hardships all too well. I was fortunate enough to come into this world when my father was in solid financial standing but he shared many stories over the years, just how hard the beginning was. There was no WTAP back then, and my father could only rely on himself and his few family members. I want this generation of refugees to know someone else is out there to help them, and they do not have to do it all alone. I want them to have more than just the mattress on the floor that my father had when he first came. WTAP allows me to help furnish their near empty apartments so that they can become their homes, filled with what they need to be able to comfortably sit, study, eat and enjoy their home life as we all do.Describe an experience you had while volunteering that made you realize you were making a difference.

One time, on a delivery I learned that a 5 year old child was not attending school, and that the parents were told he did not need to go until the fall, and yet, this was only January. I explained that school was required at that age and that there must have been a misunderstanding. I then assisted the family with phone calls during the week and the child began school. The parents were very happy that indeed their child could start learning and not have to wait.

What do you do when you aren’t volunteering?
I recently finished my M. S. In Professional Counseling, and will soon commence my job search. I love to travel, spend time with family and friends and I love to cook, bake and entertain. I also mentor International Students at Scottsdale Community College.

What secret powers or talents do you have?

I have the gift of learning languages and can speak Polish, Ukrainian, French, Spanish, Italian, and Dutch in varying degrees as well as being able to understand some Russian. This is a blessing when I travel and has come in handy with some of our refugee families.

Volunteer Spotlight: Manya, Tatijana, and Maja


How long have you been volunteering with WTAP? 

Our family, my two daughters and I, have been volunteering since September 2014.   We have helped with deliveries, organized the warehouse, worked at the clothing closet, and have adopted a family for the annual event.

Tell me about some of the people you’ve met while working with WTAP?  
We have met many amazing volunteers who come out regularly to spend their Saturday mornings – individuals, couples, and parents and their children.  More importantly, we have had the privilege of meeting families from all over the world.  One Somali family really stands out in our minds.  There were about 9 people in the family, all in one apartment.  While they had very little in way of furniture or material belongings they had turned their home into a beautiful, welcoming place by covering the walls, ceiling, and even floors with colorful, patterned cloths.  You walked into their home and you immediately felt as if you had been transported half-way around the world. With so little, they had made a welcoming home.  Each time we volunteer we are  humbled by the families we meet who have their own personal challenges and dreams to share.


Why do you choose to donate your time to WTAP?

We initially found out about WTAP when looking for an organization to support for Manya’s alma mater’s annual national alumni volunteer day. Manya coordinated the Arizona alumni volunteer group in 2014 and 2015.  We absolutely loved our first experience and committed ourselves to becoming regular volunteers.  The joy we feel from helping families find clothing and set-up their new homes is unbeatable.  We selfishly keep returning to volunteer to keep re-experiencing that joy.

Describe an experience you had while volunteering that made you realize you were making a difference.  Not long after we first started volunteering, we had the privilege of helping a young family from Afghanistan.  The father/husband had been a interpreter supporting U.S. troops forcing them to leave their country to be safe from violent retaliation. They had 2 young children under the age of about 5 and the wife was pregnant with another child.  When we arrived at their home, we found out that they had really been hoping for a stroller for the younger child because the pregnant mom could not carry him. We knew there was no stroller on the truck for them.  We made the decision to run to a store down the street and to buy the family a stroller.  It was just a simple, basic stroller, but the impact it had on that family was significant.
What do you do when you aren’t volunteering?
Besides caring for our small backyard flock of pampered hens, we keep busy with school activities.  Manya is a school psychologist.  Tatijana and Maja are middle school students.
What secret powers or talents do you have?  
The girls are proud of their physical strength when unloading the truck.  Manya claims no super power other than a commitment to raising caring children who are involved in their community. 

Truck Mural: Design Contest

truck contest

Seeking Artists to Design Our New Truck!

Thanks to a grant from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust, WTAP has a new truck. For now, it is still stark white… we need YOU to help us change that!

Interested artists please submit a design:

  • The design should be 8 feet by 16 feet for both sides of 8’x16′ box truck
  • There should be a different design for each side
  • A mural design must not have any shading or blending
  • Can be projected and traced onto truck
  • Can be filled in by volunteers

March 1-20: Idea submissions accepted:
Email to info@wtap.org with “truck mural” in subject line

March 21- Apr 4: Vote on finalists on social media
Design chosen and prize awarded


Volunteer Spotlight: Nina Melic

Nina Melic: Volunteer, Board Member

10801735_10205074368596211_8300777266501353985_n (1)How long have you been volunteering with WTAP?
I have been volunteering only since August 2015. I was looking for a
new job on LinkedIn and came across the WTAP page. I sent Collin an email and the rest is history.
Tell me about some of the people you’ve met while working with WTAP?
Besides having the honor of meeting the wonderful people involved in planning the Fundraiser Breakfast in October, I have had the pleasure to meet all the student volunteers that put the time and effort in helping us organize and host the WTAP Breakfast at Scottsdale Community College.
Why do you choose to donate your time to WTAP? Volunteering is good for the soul. I have been looking for the right organization for a while now but nothing really seemed to be calling my name. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of organizations and causes to be involved but they just weren’t for me. WTAP seemed appropriate. Being a former refugee myself, I can relate to what people go through and the challenges they face of starting over.
Describe an experience you had while volunteering that made you realize you were making a difference.
That realization came when we had a room full of people attending the WTAP Fundraiser Breakfast. With everything that’s going on today and the bias influence media has on people made me realize that what WTAP does is very important not only helping those resettled in Arizona but educating the public as well. It also made me realize that people want to help whether it is with their time, financially or spreading the awareness.
What do you do when you aren’t volunteering?
I work full time as a Catering Manager. My free time is spent hiking and exploring Arizona trails. I enjoy spending time with friends and family.
What secret powers or talents do you have?
Yikes, I don’t think any of my talents are secret and definitely no powers here. Not sure if it’s a talent but I am a very adaptive person. I adapt to changes very easily and that’s helped me in the past and has shaped who I am today.

Volunteer Spotlight: Quteiba Al-Timeemy

Quteiba “Q” Al-Timeemy: Communications Committee Intern

How long have you been volunteering with WTAP?IMG_1569
I’ve been a volunteer for almost 4 months now. I started with WTAP as a service learning project for school but I’ve grown very attached to WTAP’s vision and mission, so I decided to stay on board. 
Tell me about some of the people you’ve met while working with WTAP?
Everyone I’ve met at WTAP is so extraordinary. The amount of compassion the volunteers have cannot be measured with words. I refuged from Iraq to America in the mid 90’s so I know how scary it is to be a refugee. To find so many who care about the position that people like my family and I were in is beyond amazing. 
Why do you choose to donate your time to WTAP?
At first, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I started my school project with WTAP, but after a few days and speaking to some of the volunteers, it was clear that I wanted to be here. It’s incredibly difficult to know what a refugee goes through, even for me being a refugee, my story to me seems to be unreal. That first time I did a delivery and spoke to a Iraqi refugee and saw how happy they were even after everything they went through, I knew I was at the right place. 
Describe an experience you had while volunteering that made you realize you were making a difference. 
The first delivery I did was truly exceptional. Not just the part where we delivered everything they needed, or set it up to their liking, but to actually take time to speak to them and get to know them. It’s hard to find people that are truly interested in lives of total strangers but the amount of compassion and support that the volunteers showed on that day and gratitude that refugees displayed really showed I was at the right place. 
What do you do when you aren’t volunteering?
I am a prelaw student and work full time so I tend to stay busy. If I find any free time I’m usually working out or hiking or playing a pick up soccer or basketball game. 
What secret powers or talents do you have?
My secret powers include flying and having a mystery solving intuition but that’s a secret, so shhhhh. Not much of a secret power though is honestly just trying to make people smile. I think a smile is contagious so I try my best to spread it.

Volunteer Spotlight: Lauren Abraham

Lauren Abraham: Communications Committee Intern

Lauren AbrahamHow long have you been volunteering with WTAP?
I started volunteering with WTAP in October, so it bas been about a month now.

Tell me about some of the people you’ve met while working with WTAP?
While working with WTAP, I have had the privilege of meeting the members of the Communications Committee. It has been fascinating to see the behind-the-scenes workings of the organization, and getting to know the individuals who take on different roles to make everything run smoothly. In addition, it has been inspiring to see the passion these individuals have for helping refugees feel welcome coming to America.

Why do you choose to donate your time to WTAP?
I am a social media intern for WTAP. I find information that sheds a positive light on refugees coming to America, and post on the organization’s Facebook and Twitter pages. This has been a great experience, because I have been able use and apply my knowledge of social media, as well as learn information about refugees and their stories. I have enjoyed reading inspiring stories about refugees who have found success because of their hard work, despite the hardships they have had to overcome.

Describe an experience you had while volunteering that made you realize you were making a difference.  
I have not yet helped with a delivery, but through helping the organization with their social media, I feel I have made a difference. I think finding and sharing stories about refugees gives them a voice that they may not otherwise have. I believe refugees deserve to be recognized for their hard work and the challenges they have overcome.

What do you do when you aren’t volunteering?
I am currently a student at Grand Canyon University, and I live on campus. While I am not volunteering, I am busy with schoolwork and other various activities I am involved in, such as being part of the National Communication Honors Society. I am also busy planning for a mission trip I will be going on in the spring to the Navajo reservation. In my free time, I enjoy relaxing and spending time with my family and friends.

What secret powers or talents do you have?
I would not say I have any secret powers (although I wish I did), but one of my talents is that I love to write. This is something I have been passionate about since I was very young, and I hope to incorporate it into my career one day.

Volunteer Spotlight: Deborah Richardson

Deborah Richardson: Super Volunteer
How long have you been volunteering with WTAP?Dec 2014 head shot
I have been volunteering with WTAP for 2 years.  I didn’t know anything about WTAP until my son, Aaron, age 19 at the time, expressed an interest in doing some volunteer work with refugees due to experiences he had while traveling abroad during his previous semester of college.  He had the opportunity to be a part of Semester At Sea which is basically a floating classroom with professors from all over the world and a variety of class offerings. Aaron had traveled to numerous countries including India, Burma, Ghana, South Africa, Vietnam and Morocco.  Through this program, he was exposed to an international perspective that ignited an interest in him to pursue a career with a humanitarian focus. When he came home for his summer break we discovered WTAP and asked if I wanted to do this with him.   We started with deliveries and we were both amazed at how much meeting each of the families and learning their stories touched our hearts.  We continued over the summer and when he returned to school, I continued volunteering.  I remained involved in some deliveries but began working with the Clothes Closet and now I have incorporated Home Visits.  I really love it.
Tell me about some of the people you’ve met while working with WTAP?
The thing that strikes me the most when I meet the refugee families is how resilient and strong they all are.  It keeps me grounded and reminds me that while I might think I have problems or things to worry about, I don’t have the first clue about the struggles, hardships and life-threatening situations each of these families has lived through and many of them for years on end.  Being a mom, I tend to be very empathetic to the mother in the family and her desire to protect her family and hold them together as best she can.  Every time I have the opportunity to meet refugees, I walk away with ten times more than I contributed.  I am also very impressed with the volunteers that come back time after time and move heavy furniture to second and third floor apartments in extreme heat!  Now that’s impressive and dedicated!
Why do you choose to donate your time to WTAP?
The reason I choose to donate time to WTAP is I believe I make a difference in someone’s life in a positive way.  When I go into someone’s home and smile, showing caring and concern and take time to listen, you can really see how much impact it has on the families.  As I said before, I see families that have horrendous stories to tell.  Yet here they are continuing to put one foot in front of the other.  That warms my heart so much.  And if I can make that journey just a bit easier, more comfortable and let them know somebody cares, it’s all worth it.  I’m really the one who benefits the most I think when it comes right down to it.  I give just a little bit of time and effort and get so much in return.
Describe an experience you had while volunteering that made you realize you were making a difference. 
I could tell so many stories here!  Just this past weekend, I had the privilege of delivering items to 3 families I had done the home visits for.  This was especially powerful for me because I had met them 10 days earlier, heard their stories, listened to them describe their needs and saw, first-hand, how little they had.  One of the families from Cuba literally had basically an empty apartment.  They had nothing.  So when we delivered a couch, tables, dishes, utensils, book shelves, a TV, desk, chairs, etc. they really thought they had made it to Heaven.  They were not able to show their appreciation enough.  So to see it all come together and to help these families go from an apartment they take shelter in to a home is remarkable to say the least.
What do you do when you aren’t volunteering ?
When I am not volunteering, I am always first a mom even though both of my children are not living at home.  My daughter, Abby, age 25, lives in Taiwan and teaches English.  My son, Aaron, whom I credit for getting me started with WTAP, is senior at Concordia University in Portland, OR.  So now it’s just my husband and I and our beloved beagle, Jeter.  I am also a Registered Dietitian and have a private practice that serves people of all ages who need some sort of nutritional intervention from an eating disorder to diabetes to heart disease or just need to adopt a healthier lifestyle.  I enjoy hiking, traveling with my husband and/or family, going to sporting events, photography and I love exploring all types of restaurants and foods so I “drag” my husband along to experience that with me.
What secret powers or talents do you have?
It’s always hard to describe yourself it seems.  I would say I have a great deal of compassion for people and that I am very resourceful and able to figure out how to accomplish whatever it is I set out to do.  So maybe my motto should be, “If there’s a will there’s a way”?  I think these are two important characteristics that help me in volunteering for WTAP.  I care about the families and their struggles and definitely want to find a way to help them make their lives just a little easier than before I met them. 


Volunteer Spotlight: Kelly Snider

Kelly Snider: Super Volunteer

KellySniderHow long have you been volunteering with WTAP?
I started volunteering in 2007 with my two children. We loved the diversity of every delivery we helped out with. I have been a part of deliveries, the Clothes Closet and Adopt a Family (holiday event).

Tell me about some of the people you’ve met while working with WTAP?
While we have short interactions with those receiving our donations, the volunteers that I have met over the years, remind me of the goodness and kindness of others. I appreciate meeting new volunteers, and am always delighted to see returning faces on deliveries and at the Clothes Closets.

Why do you choose to donate your time to WTAP? At this point, I can’t imagine not volunteering with WTAP. I leave deliveries feeling so fortunate. Fortunate to have connected with other great volunteers, and fortunate to connect with refugee families who are so grateful for our assistance.

Describe an experience you had while volunteering that made you realize you were making a difference.
Truly, each delivery, Clothes Closet event, Adopt a Family event, I hope to make a difference for the volunteers and those who are receiving our services. When refugee families find that their apartments feel more like home, when small children find clothing that fits, and when a refugee father said Thank You for all of the gifts he received for his children during our Adopt a Family event – that fills my heart. Seeing volunteers cleaning kitchens, playing soccer with children, making beds, finding a cool Sponge Bob shirt for that 6 year old little boy – reminds me why I get up on Saturday’s and do what we do!

What do you do when you aren’t volunteering?
I am lucky to work with a great consulting organization, we design, develop and facilitate training programs for large corporations. When I am in the office, I am a project manager and when I am out at client site, I am facilitating training events.

What secret powers or talents do you have?
Unfortunately no secret powers! I enjoy cooking, reading, hiking, entertaining and being with my family.