Shortly after Thanksgiving an amazing thing started happening at the International Institute: donations started pouring into our building. Prompted by the terrorist attacks in Paris, some politicians tried to quell fears of similar attacks by promoting restrictions on Syrian and Iraqi refugees. This misplaced blame created an outpouring of generosity and support for all refugees, and the Institute was one of the major beneficiaries. Families with young children brought in bags of clothing and toys. Schools and businesses started collecting household goods and winter clothing. People from across the country ordered diapers, baby wipes, and socks by the caseload and shipped them to the Institute.
Our Hall of Nations, a large meeting and event area, became the sorting area for all the donations that were being brought in. In the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas we received 60-70 donations a day. Some donors brought one or two bags of items while others brought 20-30 bags. Some donations came from our neighborhood, while others arrived by car from as far as Ames, Iowa. Boxes were shipped to us from New York and California. The Hall of Nations was quickly re-christened the Hall of Donations.
This outpouring of support and goodwill was so incredibly moving. Our clients received the much needed items required for life here in Minnesota. Clients and students carried bags and carloads of things home to their families who needed them. The fact that Americans wanted to give to refugees in their time of need was an encouragement. It was amazing to see the negative message, that we need to be fearful, turned on its head and become a call to rally around our fellow humans. At the start of November, we had to buy gloves for our new arrivals, and now we have donated hats, gloves, boots, scarves, and coats for more than 500 refugees.
I am inspired every day by the clients I work with who have been through so much and are working to achieve a basic level of self-sufficiency and hope for the future that we, as Americans, often take for granted. I am also inspired by the generosity of our donors, who have opened their hearts and their closets to join us in welcoming refugees.
As of the publishing of this post (January 12, 2016), we do not have space to accept additional donated items. We expect to welcome 550 refugees in 2016. Once we have distributed our current donations, we will accept items again. For the latest on our current needs, check out our In-Kind Donations page.