What we’ve heard recently about people fleeing war-torn countries is demonstrably horribleJust as what happened a little over a year ago, too many people simply don’t understand or don’t care about the terrible conditions these people are fleeing — and how many countries with resources much smaller than our own are doing much more to help.

If you feel helpless, or you don’t feel like entering the political fray, it can seem like there are limited options to do something positive or something that has an immediate impact. Here’s what I do know: There are many refugees already in the U.S. right now. They are trying to adjust to a new way of life and often, they are separated from their families.

It’s hard to imagine what it must be like to be in their shoes. But if you live in the U.S., there’s a very high chance that your family has made it here under similar, uncertain circumstances. Everyone gets help along the way to make that transition, whether from the government, community, churches, families, or friends.

If I escaped a war- or poverty-torn country and relocated to a country that now has a really unfriendly position toward people in my situation, I’d be scared. I hope nobody ever has to deal with that.

So, a little over a year ago, I researched what I could to help.

The Office of Refugee Resettlement is the national agency that coordinates refugee assistance. If you check out their website, and click on the state you live in, you’ll see actual assistance is provided by a patchwork of public and private nonprofit organizations.

While every organization is different, here’s what I’m told most of them need right now:

  1. Money: These organizations help provide housing, food, and medical assistance and the easiest way to provide that is through the purchasing power of money. Most of them get special deals because of their position and most of the resources they have easy access to are the ones they get locally. This is the fastest and easiest way to help.
  2. Household goods and clothing: If money is tight or if you want to supplement your donation, you can donate household goods in good condition and clothing — especially clothing for women and children.
  3. Volunteers: Part of the mission of our local organization is to mentor and connect with refugee families and help them get settled. Whether it’s taking them to a doctor appointment or just working with them on English skills, it’s an hour or two out of your week to have another friendly face in a strange place.

There are a lot of programs that also help refugees still stranded abroad as well as political advocacy groups that are both perpetually underfunded. No effort is wasted effort. I know my actions have made a difference though and the impact is immediate.