West Virginia Interfaith Refugee Ministry (WVIRM)
We are a group of Christian, Jewish and Muslim clergy and laypersons who have come together for the purpose of helping refugees, in light of the current crisis in Syria and other places around the world that has displaced millions of people. We are located in Charleston, West Virginia.
Our goal is to help refugees and to educate elected officials and laypersons about:
(I) interfaith understanding
(ii) the current crisis and the process of refugee resettlement
(iii) what kind of volunteer opportunities are available and what help is needed
What has WVIRM done so far?
- WVIRM has welcomed 3 asylum seeking families and is still supporting 2 of them here in West Virginia. The families are fleeing persecution in their home countries of Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo for reasons such as their political opinions and/or social group membership. WVIRM is partnering with other local charities to provide the families access to housing, food, school supplies for the children etc. The children are doing well in school and the adults are rapidly learning English. To find out how to volunteer with our families please email WVIRM President Lynn Clarke at firstname.lastname@example.org
- WVIRM IS HAVING CONTINUED SUCCESS WITH ITS WVIRM/IAWV SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM! VISIT OUR PROGRAM PAGE AND LEARN HOW TO APPLY FOR AN AWARD https://wvirm.com/wvirm-iawv-educational-scholarship-program/
- Funded a small grant for WV Step by Step to order children’s books on refugee families and to develop a curriculum for schools, reading programs and after school programs to use to help schoolchildren understand the refugee crisis.
- Approved a scholarship working with the local chapter of the Syrian American Medical Society to help medical students who have fled Syria to continue their medical training
- Contacted a local college to investigate starting a scholarship program to help WV select high school students who are refugees and who need help to attend college.
- Held an annual Rally in Charleston, WV to support refugees and increase awareness and interfaith understanding.
- Participated for several years in Civil Rights Lobby Day at the WV State Capitol.
- Held informational community events such as talks to community and religious organizations about refugee resettlement, and information tables at community events such as the Charleston WV Artwork.
- Met with WV Senators, Congressional staffers and officials in WV State Government to discuss issues relevant to refugee resettlement and temporary protected status. Had its letter to a staff person in Senator Shelley Moore Capito’s office, asking for extension of temporary protected status for refugees from several countries, sent in a Congressional Communique to the Director of the Federal Department of Homeland Security.
- Opened WVIRM’s offices in Charleston, WV as a nondenominational affiliate office of Episcopal Migration Ministries. Our office is serving as a model for other cities who want to organize affiliate programs to aid refugees even if their city is not involved in direct resettlement. Let us know if anyone your city or town is interested in getting organized to help!
- Compiled a directory of over 100 volunteers – individuals, churches, synagogues and mosques who are ready to help sponsor refugee families selected by Catholic Charities and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Migration and Refugee Service for resettlement of refugees in WV.
How did WVIRM get organized?
WVIRM formed in October 2015 when a number of religious leaders representing Christian, Muslim and Jewish congregations joined with other community leaders to work together to bring greater understanding of the plight of the Syrian refugees to West Virginians and their leaders.
October 2015: WVIRM held an informational webinar at St. John’s Episcopal Church regarding the refugee vetting and resettlement process. Over 150 people of all faiths attended and over 100 signed up to volunteer and learn more.
November 2015: Sent a letter, signed by over 100 people of many faiths, urging elected officials to allow resettlement of properly vetted Syrians and other refugees in WV.
December 4, 2015: A meeting with political leaders was held at St. John’s Episcopal Church to discuss refugee issues. Senators Joe Manchin and Shelly Moore Capito, representatives from the offices of Congressman Alex Mooney and Evan Jenkins, as well as Dr. Carolyn Stuart, from the Governor’s Office of Minority Affairs and a representative from City of Charleston Mayor’s office attended, among others.
What are they doing now?
Currently, WVIRM is pursuing plans approved by its Board in March, 2018 concerning new projects to aid refugees here in the US and abroad. The focus is on partnerships with universities and medical groups to aid refugees. More will be posted as plans develop including information on how you can help. In the meantime, WVIRM continues its public events – please check out our Facebook page to learn more.