Month: April 2020

Wild, Wonderful, Welcoming West Virginia!

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undefined We’re in this for the long haul!

When families from Africa came to Charleston for resettlement 16 months ago, a crew of volunteers went into action: securing housing and furnishings; setting up utility accounts; stocking the pantry; finding clothing suitable to West Virginia weather; enrolling the children in school; obtaining immunizations …

After immediate needs were met, orientation to Charleston and West Virginia began. This included introduction to grocery stores; medical providers including HealthRight; ESL classes and tutors; faith communities; the bus system; technology (the school system uses iPads); and the local USCIS office.

Our pro bono attorney and WVIRM co-founder, Lynn Clarke, has provided hundreds of hours helping the families achieve a formal declaration of acceptance of their applications for asylum. Court hearings have been postponed due to the Court’s failure to obtain a translator and, now,  because of the coronavirus.

Still, we press on.

After all, if these families can travel thousands of miles (by foot, ship, bus, horse and foot again) over some of the most dangerous terrain in the world, how can we not persevere? The families’ faith provides hope to us all.

Welcoming the families to Charleston doesn’t stop with a furnished house. The families have emotional needs as well. They are far from their families and worried about the effects of the coronavirus in their home countries. In addition, their relatives may be subject to greater scrutiny because of the activities of the families seeking asylum here in the U.S.

Church World Service offers these tips to stay connected. Try one today!

  • Share DVDs or Audio Books. The Stay-at-Home Order limits the families’ ability to interact with native English speakers. The more they can practice English, the better their chances of getting hired when the economy opens back up.
  • Consider ordering some fresh groceries and have them delivered to a newly arrived client’s home. Some ideas:  Fruits, Vegetables, Rice, Bread, Milk and Eggs. We’ll be posting foods the families like on our website or Facebook page soon. 
  • Due to the reduction and laying off of some service industry jobs, consider donating to a client’s rent to provide an extra cushion of support.
  • The families’ cell phone plans do not cover international phone calls. A gift card would be appreciated.

Check our Facebook page and group page frequently for more ideas on how to keep West Virginia, Wild, Wonderful and Welcoming.


Will You Answer the Call?

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After traveling thousands of miles by cargo ship, by bus and on foot, the families arrived at the U.S./Mexico Border. They had survived the most dangerous jungle in the world, the Darien Gap in Panama, known as the “Migrants’ Graveyard.” They arrived in the United States shortly before President Trump restricted admission of refugees and others seeking asylum. They arrived safely in Charleston where they received shelter, food and welcoming arms. We breathed a collective sigh of relief.

Sixteen months after their arrival in Charleston, the families face additional struggles.

The Coronavirus has limited or halted their employment entirely. A former nurse was offered a job at a nursing home just days before the Governor’s stay-at-home order. Her husband was ready to take his driver’s license test, the first step toward obtaining a CDL license, when the Department of Motor Vehicles closed. The business that employed the second couple has reduced production, cutting their hours severely.

These two families who were on the road to self-sufficiency need our help more than ever. Will you answer the call?

Following is a letter from the President of our Board of Directors, on behalf of WVIRM, asking that you listen to the cries of those who have had to leave their homes and flee to a foreign country, because their lives and the lives of their families were in danger. Will you listen to their cries? Will you donate now?

Dear Friend of WV Interfaith Refugee Ministry:

As the world deals with this unprecedented pandemic, WVIRM finds itself facing an unprecedented situation. The COVID-19 virus is affecting all of our families, and our way of life.

At WVIRM, we are facing this same difficulty as many other households, businesses and nonprofit organizations.  Our current funding will last only about 5 more months.  We cannot do it alone without  your  help to support our two families.

For the past 16 months, we have been supporting two families from the Republic of Congo and Angola, each with small children, who are seeking asylum in the United States. We provide full financial support and cultural orientation while they try to learn how to adjust to life in a new country, earn a living and become self-independent, productive members of our beautiful State. 

They were well on their way to self-sufficiency when the COVID-19 epidemic turned everything upside down.  We hope they will be able to return to work by the end of the year, but if not, we need to be prepared to help.

We know friends of WVIRM are committed to ensuring that our mission to help support immigrants and refugees continues and that no family goes hungry during these difficult times

We come to you at this time to appeal to your heart with an urgent request for help. Most of us will be receiving a check from the Stimulus Package our government is implementing. We ask you to consider sharing part or all of that check with our organization.

The donation will be tax-deductible. The CARES Act contains a provision allowing individuals to take a $300 above-the-line deduction for cash contributions to charities, regardless of whether or not the individual itemizes deductions. This is a win-win provision! You help WVIRM help families, and you get an additional tax deduction!

We are a very small nonprofit organization that is run primarily by volunteers with a part-time Executive Director supported by grant-funding. All of your donations will go into an emergency fund supporting the families.   

We understand and respect how difficult these times are on us all; how stressful this is for everyone.  Please help those who are less fortunate than you and those who are trying to get their life started in this country, as most of us and our ancestors did.  Make a financial contribution to WVIRM. Anything is appreciated. No donation is too small.  

 Donations can be made online at or via check to P.O Box 5387, Charleston, WV 25361.

Thank you for caring and for your generosity.

Ibtesam Sue Barazi, Board President, WVIRM

Life in a Pandemic

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If there is anything constant in life, other than death and taxes, it is this: Plans Change. COVID-19 has altered all our plans. College and lower level school classes are being held online. Graduations have been canceled; proms, too. We don’t run out to the store to purchase something just because we think we need it. We’re being more careful how we spend money, because our continued employment is not assured. First time homebuyers: how are they going to make their house payments? This is the story for the middle class.

But what about those living paycheck to paycheck, or on public assistance, or without income at all? According to an article written in in May 2019 (before the new coronavirus hit), millions of Americans are one paycheck away from financial disaster.

“Certain communities were more prone to economic hardship in the event of missing a paycheck. Roughly two-thirds of households earning less than $30,000 annually and Hispanic households would be unable to cover basic living expenses after missing more than one paycheck, the researchers [from the Federal Reserve] found.”

Consider, then, those persons who are barred from receiving unemployment compensation, TANF and SNAP benefits. Consider the two families seeking asylum in the United States that WVIRM is resettling in Charleston, West Virginia. Employment comparable to what they held in their native countries has not been possible due to limited English fluency and professional licensing requirements. Like Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire, they are depending “on the kindness of strangers.” Strangers such as you and me. 

In strange times such as these, donations to charitable organizations decline. Understandably so. But there are still ways you can help WVIRM help the families we support. Here are a few examples:

  • When shopping BOGO deals, donate your extra item. We’ll pick it up.
  • Do you receive items from a food pantry you don’t like or need? We’ll pick those up, too.
  • Hand sanitizer, alcohol wipes, bars of soap – anything to help combat the virus – would be appreciated. 
  • Bus passes are needed. You can buy these online and mail them to our office at PO Box 5387, Charleston, WV 25361.
  • Share this article on social media. The wider the audience, the greater the potential for help.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) contains incentives for charitable giving:

Charitable Giving Incentive: Creates a new above-the-line deduction (universal or non-itemizer deduction that applies to all taxpayers) for total charitable contributions of up to $300. The incentive applies to cash contributions made in 2020 and can be claimed on tax forms next year. Section 2204. The law also lifts the existing cap on annual contributions for those who itemize, raising it from 60 percent of adjusted gross income to 100 percent. For corporations, the law raises the annual limit from 10 percent to 25 percent. Food donations from corporations would be available to 25 percent, up from the current 15 percent cap. Section 2205.    

Plans change. Life as we knew it is different. What doesn’t change, what hasn’t changed, is the can-do spirit of the American people. West Virginians, in particular, have a history of helping their neighbors. Mountaineers are strong, resilient, proud, creative and compassionate. 

WVIRM was founded by people of faith who wanted to put their faith into action. Let’s put feet to our faith. Together, following the guidelines of trusted health professionals, we will survive this pandemic and come out better on the other side.

Please share your ideas of how to help each other and the two families we support, while maintaining safe health practices. And, if you are able, please use the donate button to make a financial contribution.