“…the call to be involved in creating justice for the poor is just as essential and non-negotiable within the spiritual life as is Jesus’s commandment to pray and keep our private lives in order.”
–Ronald Rolheiser, The Holy Longing: A Search for Christian Spirituality
“Jesus, friend of sinners, break our hearts for what breaks yours”
“‘God, why don’t you do something?’ He said, ‘I did, I created you.'”
“What can we do? I feel so helpless…”
The text came from my husband as I was sitting in the shade of a green, breezy park, watching our own kids swing and run and jump and play, not a care in the world.
The pictures and video and audio of the cries of immigrant and refugee children being separated from their parents at the US border as part of immigration protocol shook us all to our core.
Regardless of our feelings about immigration and the politics at play in this situation, something about seeing all of this happening IN OUR OWN COUNTRY, ON OUR OWN SOIL, for some of us IN OUR OWN COMMUNITIES, has hit home like nothing we’ve seen before.
The reality is that this is nothing new under the sun. Children and families face trauma in our own country and around the world every day, having to walk through things in this fallen and broken world for which the children of God were never intended.
But SEEING IT AT HOME, live and in living color, has stirred us- and that, my friends, is SOMETHING.
Make no mistake, my people, God is moving here. He is ALWAYS moving, if only we know where to look, and right now we need only to look into our own hearts and the hearts of those around us to see His power at work, shaking our foundations and calling us to more.
The reason we feel the ache in our very souls for the vulnerable is because it’s woven into our DNA. We were made in the image of a Father for whom the needs of His children are paramount. This call to action in our hearts, that “What can we do?” feeling, that represents the very BEST of the nature God created in us.
The fact is that there ARE things we can do- there is SO MUCH we can do for needy children and families, if only we know where to look.
There are organizations all across our country and around the world that are addressing the needs of the most vulnerable among God’s children every single day. Some are focused on needs like the ones we are currently seeing in the national news, providing for and advocating for immigrants and refugees, both here and abroad. Others are fighting modern day slavery and human trafficking. Some are working on job creation and food insecurity, others are serving homeless youth, orphans, and foster care.
We can harness the power of this moment, the call to action we feel in our heart, not only to take action in this situation, but to inform ourselves about ways we can KEEP taking action and CONTINUE providing for and advocating and for vulnerable children and families at home and around the world every single day.
I’m beyond blessed to have friends and family who are SHOWER UPPERS, boots-on-the-ground, plugged-in kind of people who are involved in serving every day. So I reached out on Facebook and asked my people to provide me with a list of organizations they know of that are serving vulnerable children and families so that I could pass the info on to others who are feeling the urgency of the moment.
This list is unedited, I didn’t make any decisions about what to include and what to leave out because this isn’t about what I feel is valuable and important. God knit each of us together uniquely, with a calling on our hearts different from everyone else’s, knowing that TOGETHER we create His vision for wholeness and justice in our world. His call on your heart to serve is different than mine
This list also isn’t by any means complete or exhaustive, it was compiled on the fly and in response to an urgent need so my crowd-sourcing time was limited. If you know of a resource organization you’d like to share, leave it in the comments. My only guideline is that this post is focusing on serving vulnerable children and families, so any suggestions should fit under that umbrella somehow.
And my directive for you as you read this list is as follows:
- Find one way to give of your time. Some of these organizations may not be local for you, but I’ll bet you could find one if you Googled.
- Find at least one organization to share with others. Either post about them on social media, text message the link to someone you think might be interested
- Find one to donate to- even $5. If EVERYONE gave $5 to one of these organizations, how much more POWER would they have to affect change and serve these babies and families?
Also, as always, do your homework. You can use Charity Navigator or a similar “charity checker” website to find out more about how these organizations use your dollars, ask around, comb the websites, and, of course, pray.
Your Shopping Dollars. There are hundreds of companies here in the US and abroad who are harnessing the power of commerce to create economic opportunity in vulnerable communities around the world, creating stability and jobs so that families don’t have to make the hard choices. Here are links to a couple of directories where you can find all sorts of wonderful places to use your dollars to make the lives of families across the world better:
Adorned in Grace Bridal and Formalwear Shops sell new and gently used wedding gowns, formals, petticoats, veils, and accessories. All proceeds are used to promote awareness and prevention of sex trafficking as well as crisis prevention for trafficked victims.
Become a Foster Family OR respite care provider for Foster Families– A quick internet search for “YOUR CITY foster care” or “YOUR COUNTY foster care respite” should point you in the right direction. It varies by state, city, and county the exact place you’ll need to look, but a search should do the trick
International Justice Mission. IJM’s mission is to protect the poor from violence by rescuing victims, bringing the criminals to justice, restoring survivors to safety and strength, and helping local law enforcement build a safe future that lasts. IJM partners with local authorities to rescue victims of violence, bring criminals to justice, restore survivors, and strengthen justice systems. We combat slavery, sex trafficking, property grabbing, police abuse of power and sexual violence in nearly 20 communities throughout Africa, Latin America and South and Southeast Asia. Our vision is to rescue thousands, protect millions and prove that justice for the poor is possible.
Preemptive Love Coalition. We’re a coalition stretching across Iraq, Syria, the United States, and beyond, working together to unmake violence and create the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible. We meet families on the frontlines of conflict, providing them lifesaving food, water, and medical care. We give them what they need to hold on and hold out. We create jobs for those victimized by ISIS. We provide small business grants, tools, and coaching so they can start again and so their families can flourish.
Together Rising. Whether it’s pulling children out of the sea outside the refugee camps in Greece, helping abandoned kids on the streets in Indianapolis, establishing the first opioid recovery home for pregnant teens in New Hampshire, building a maternal health wing in Port-au-Prince, providing a single mother access to breast cancer treatment, or keeping a foster family’s heat on in Texas — Together Rising identifies what is breaking the hearts of our givers as they look around their world and their community, and then we connect our givers’ generosity with the people and organizations who are effectively addressing that critical need. Here is how they have been addressing the issue of families separated at the border.
RAICES. The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that promotes justice by providing free and low-cost legal services to underserved immigrant children, families and refugees in Central and South Texas. RAICES is the largest immigration non-profit in Texas with offices in Austin, Corpus, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio.
Catholic Charities offers a wide variety of support and assistance for children and families in need around the world, including advocacy outreach, and provides immigration information and legal translation help. Many refugee/immigrants identify as Catholic so they often reach out to Catholic Charities for help.
World Concern is a Christian global relief and development agency extending opportunity and hope to people facing extreme poverty.
Mennonite Central Committee is a global, nonprofit organization that strives to share God’s love and compassion for all through relief, development and peace.
IRCO: Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization. IRCO’s mission is to promote the integration of refugees, immigrants and the community at large into a self-sufficient, healthy and inclusive multi-ethnic society. Founded in 1976 by refugees for refugees, IRCO has over 40 years of history and experience working with Portland’s refugee and immigrant community.
Carry the Future. Be a force for action and hope and join our international community of volunteers as we unite to bring humanitarian aid in the form of child carriers, baby beds and survival items to refugee families.
Southwest Key. Southwest Key is committed to keeping kids out of institutions and home with their families, in their communities. We do this through three areas of programming: youth justice alternatives, immigrant children’s shelters, and education. Southwest Key also seeks to create opportunities for families to become self-sufficient by offering programming in adult education, community building and workforce development. The inspiring kids and families we work with are seeking the American dream—equality, education, and a healthier quality of life. At Southwest Key, we simply open the doors to opportunity so they can achieve these dreams.
The Florence Project is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit legal service organization providing free legal services to men, women, and unaccompanied children in immigration custody in Arizona. Although the government assists indigent criminal defendants and civil litigants through public defenders and legal aid attorneys, it does not provide attorneys for people in immigration removal proceedings. As a result, an estimated 86 percent of the detained people go unrepresented due to poverty. The Florence Project strives to address this inequity both locally and nationally through direct service, partnerships with the community, and advocacy and outreach efforts.
KIND: Kids in Need of Defense. KIND staff and our pro bono attorney partners at law firms, corporations, and law schools nationwide represent unaccompanied immigrant and refugee children in their deportation proceedings. Together, we ensure that no child stands in court alone.
The Women’s Refugee Commission improves the lives and protects the rights of women, children and youth displaced by conflict and crisis. We research their needs, identify solutions and advocate for programs and policies to strengthen their resilience and drive change in humanitarian practice. Since our founding in 1989, we have been a leading expert on the needs of refugee women and children, and the policies that can protect and empower them.
Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM) lives the call of welcome by supporting refugees, immigrants, and the communities that embrace them as they walk together in The Episcopal Church’s movement to create loving, liberating, and life-giving relationships rooted in compassion. EMM’s desire to honor the inherent value of human connection brings communities together to love their neighbors as themselves.
Safe Families for Children hosts vulnerable children and creates extended family–like supports for desperate families through a community of devoted volunteers who are motivated by compassion to keep children safe and families intact.
The three objectives of Safe Families for Children are:
- Keep children safe during a family crisis such as homelessness, hospitalization, or domestic violence in an effort to prevent child abuse and/or neglect.
- Support, and stabilize families in crisis by surrounding them with caring, compassionate community.
- Reunite families and reduce the number of children entering the child welfare system.
We Belong Together aims to mobilize women in support of common sense immigration policies that will keep families together and empower women. Immigration reform is rarely thought of as a women’s issue, but in fact it is central to the fight for women’s equality. Millions of immigrant women who are part of the fabric of our communities, workplaces, and schools are blocked from achieving their full potential because of a broken immigration system. They perform essential jobs, like taking care of our children and our aging parents, and are central to family and community well-being.
Feedmore. Central Virginia’s core hunger relief organization.
Communities in Schools. Working directly in 2,300 schools in 25 states and the District of Columbia, Communities In Schools builds relationships that empower students to stay in school and succeed in life. Our school-based staff partner with teachers to identify challenges students face in class or at home and coordinate with community partners to bring outside resources inside schools. From immediate needs like food or clothing to more complex ones like counseling or emotional support, we do whatever it takes to help students succeed.
YWCA. YWCA USA is on a mission to eliminate racism, empower women, stand up for social justice, help families, and strengthen communities. We are one of the oldest and largest women’s organizations in the nation, serving over 2 million women, girls, and their families.
#HashtagLunchbag is a humanity service movement dedicated to empowering and inspiring humanity to reap the benefits of giving through the use of social media. We create and use bagged lunches, complete with love messages, as a vessel to spread this love and share our experiences to inspire others.
Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities. The Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities works with schools, businesses, and communities to achieve success by addressing prejudices, in all forms, in order to improve academic achievement, increase workplace productivity, and enhance local trust.
CASA: Court Appointed Special Advocates. CASA/GAL volunteers are appointed by judges to watch over and advocate for abused and neglected children, to make sure they don’t get lost in the overburdened legal and social service system or languish in inappropriate group or foster homes. Volunteers stay with each case until it is closed and the child is placed in a safe, permanent home. For many abused children, their CASA/GAL volunteer will be the one constant adult presence in their lives.
No Kid Hungry. When you become part of No Kid Hungry, you’re joining a movement of teachers, chefs, community leaders, parents, lawmakers and CEOs with a shared belief: no kid in America should go hungry.
KaBOOM! is the national non-profit dedicated to bringing balanced and active play into the daily lives of all kids, particularly those growing up in poverty in America.
Reach Out and Read is a nonprofit organization that gives young children a foundation for success by incorporating books into pediatric care and encouraging families to read aloud together.
Faithful Friends is a community-based mentoring program in Portland, OR, that provides children support and stability through relationships that encourage personal growth and inspire hope. The program matches volunteer individuals, couples and families with children ages 6 through 9 for mentoring relationships. The mentor/mentee matches meet 3-4 times each month for at least one year.
Big Brothers Big Sisters. As the nation’s largest donor and volunteer supported mentoring network, Big Brothers Big Sisters makes meaningful, monitored matches between adult volunteers (“Bigs”) and children (“littles”), ages 6 through young adulthood, in communities across the country.
Saving Grace Maternity Home (I am blessed enough to get to serve as a volunteer and on the board here). Saving Grace Maternity Home is a residential home experience in Hillsboro, OR, for single young homeless women in an unplanned or crisis pregnancy, between the ages of 13-25. We welcome women of all cultural, ethnic, and religious backgrounds who currently live in the state of Oregon. We have the capacity to assist and house up to four women full time and there are two beds for temporary short-term stays.
Union Gospel Mission’s LifeChange for Women and Their Children provides a safe, healing home for women and women with children to transform their lives. If you are struggling with abuse, addiction or homelessness, we can help. LifeChange is a safe environment to heal from past traumas and to learn how to break free of destructive choices. LifeChange is not a clinical treatment “program” or a series of steps. It is an intentional Christian community where people help and support each other to break cycles of addiction, abuse and homelessness and live a transformed and abundant life in Jesus.
True Colors Fund. Up to 40% of the 1.6 million youth experiencing homelessness identify as LGBTQ. Communities and youth homelessness service providers want to be safe and welcoming for LGBTQ youth, but often don’t have the knowledge or resources to do so – creating barriers for these youth to get the support they need. The True Colors Fund fills that space by offering free training and resources on how to meet the needs of LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness. We also advocate in government and media to help ensure critical funding and services for all youth, and create opportunities for youth who have experienced homelessness to be key leaders in the effort to end the problem.
Door to Grace. At Door to Grace, we are bringing safe and loving family to sexually exploited children in the Portland, OR, area.