Tri-Cities could see more refugees of Syria’s civil war

One refugee of Syria’s bloody civil war recently came to the Tri-Cities to start a new life.

The refugee is resettling with help from World Relief Tri-Cities.

The Richland group — the local branch of the Christian humanitarian organization — expects to help more Syrian refugees do the same over the next year or so. It already has paperwork for at least three others, said Scott Michael, field office director.

Syria, which borders Turkey, Iraq and Jordan, has been embroiled in war since 2011, with millions fleeing the dire conditions in their country. More than 4 million Syrians are registered with the United Nations’ refugee agency as refugees.

As the crisis grows, the United States is preparing to take in more Syrian refugees, like the one now starting over in the Tri-Cities.

President Obama recently directed his administration to increase the number of Syrian refugees admitted in the 2015-16 fiscal year to at least 10,000, up from fewer than 2,000, McClatchy Newspapers reported.

Refugees are guests of the U.S. government, admitted because of persecution or threat of persecution at home. The local World Relief branch helps more than 200 refugees resettle in the Tri-City area each year, meeting them at the airport, arranging housing, assisting them with finding work, enrolling their kids in school and otherwise helping them to get their feet on the ground. They come from countries including Myanmar and Sudan. Some come from extreme poverty, from refugee camps.

“For some of the younger (refugees), all they know is living in a camp,” Michael said.

Others were professionals at home — engineers, doctors and the like.

“For them, it’s starting over from the bottom,” Michael said.

World Relief Tri-Cities counts on help from the community to do its work. Volunteers help mentor the newly arrived refugees, providing everything from English practice to a friendly face to help navigate the grocery store.

The organization also relies on donations.

Some top needs include kitchen tables and chairs, clothing storage, lamps, kitchen items such as silverware and pots and pans, and twin- and full-size blankets. Financial donations also help the organization meet refugees’ needs, such as covering rent while they secure their first job in the U.S.

Michael said the Tri-Cities is unfailingly generous.

“This community has been amazing for refugees,” Michael said. “They’ve reached out and helped so many families.”

The work the organization does is rewarding. Michael talked about one woman who approached him not long ago.

Years before, World Relief had helped her resettle, start over.

Her daughter now is a successful professional — a dentist.

“When people invest in refugees, they go on to do great things,” Michael said.

To learn more about how to help refugees through World Relief, go to www.worldrelieftricities.org or call the office at 509-734-5477.

Sara Schilling: 509-582-1529; sschilling@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @SaraTCHerald