Sacramento refugee organization overwhelmed with offers to help refugees from Middle East

Many people in our region continue to open their hearts and homes to Muslim refugees. Dec. 7, 2016

Opening Doors saw a record number of applications from individuals looking to help refugees from countries like Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

The Sacramento-area organization aids refugees by helping them find housing and new jobs in the United States.

Opening Doors CEO Debra DeBondt said the surge in volunteer applications has continued despite a U.S. political climate that is increasingly hostile to Muslim refugees. More than half of U.S. state governors have moved to block refugees from coming to their states. On Monday, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump called for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.

"We were really heartened to see that in the aftermath of the Paris attack, as there was a lot of talk about refugees in a negative light, that that's where we really saw it step up. The numbers that started coming in that Monday or Tuesday were really huge," DeBondt said, referring to the days immediately following the terrorist attacks in Paris, where 129 people were killed.

In total, DeBondt said Opening Doors received more than 270 volunteer applications since mid-September. Around 150 of those applications were received in the week following the Paris attacks.

Opening Doors usually has around 12 volunteers, in addition to its staff of college interns. DeBondt said the increase in numbers is a testament to the way Sacramento embraces diversity.

"It's just incredibly heartening," DeBondt said. "I've been so encouraged to see people just opening their hearts. The people we've had contact with, it's just clear how moved they've been by the plight of people who have been in difficult circumstances. They've volunteered so much of their time. There's people that want to house a refugee in their home; there's people that want to help however they can."

DeBondt said Opening Doors was still accepting volunteer applications, though it may take time to find tasks for everyone interested in helping. In addition to monetary donations, the organization also accepts furniture donations, which will be used to help refugees get settled in their new homes.

More information on Opening Doors can be found on the organization's website.


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