NOVA Friends of Refugees

“To make every refugee feel welcome and every resident a welcoming friend”

NOVA Friends of Refugees was founded by Wendy Chan and Norma Kacen, two parishioners at St. George’s Episcopal Church in Arlington, VA, and Kenneth Speicher, a parishioner at Mount Olivet United Methodist Church in Arlington, VA. Impassioned by the growing refugee crisis and negative rhetoric in the news, Wendy and Norma decided to find a way their church community could get involved. After attending an informational forum hosted by Episcopal Migration Ministries, they hosted a series of forums on refugee resettlement and welcome. The success of their forums grew into a national grassroots coalition to support and advocate for refugees. The coalition now has over 1000+ members from across the country, representing over 150 faith communities, NGOs, and gov’t agencies, connected to support and share information to help refugees.

The NOVA Friends of Refugees network shares news about refugees, provides information on advocacy, organizes events and connects members with opportunities for volunteering and interacting with refugees. They focus on three key areas: Life skills and integration program, advocacy, and community events.

Follow on FB: @novafriendsofrefugees

Learn more:

1 Journey Festival Logo

Initiatives include:

  • Conduct advocacy campaigns and training to support the U.S. refugee resettlement program, oppose anti-refugee (including asylees, SIVs, TPS) policies, and oppose the severe reductions in refugee admissions.
  • Held inaugural Advocacy Workshop and Information Fair in March 2017. More than 300 people heard leaders from the U.S. State Department refugee program, U.S. Senator Kaine’s office, the VA State Senate, and local faith communities, plus an expert advocacy trainer and local refugee service organizations.
  • Held advocacy training workshops at faith-community facilities throughout northern Virginia.
  • Held three public forums on the global refugee crisis, refugee resettlement, refugee stories, government policies, and ways to help refugees. The weekly forums were held at Saint George’s Episcopal and each drew 100-150 people, plus local press coverage.
  • Participate in and host community events, including film screenings, fairs, conferences, celebrations, workshops, dinners, and school and faith group events, raising awareness about refugee-related issues and volunteer opportunities.
  • An original organizer of the One Journey movement and One Journey Festival, the first national celebration of refugee talents, stories, and contributions.
  • Helped recruit a team of 150 sponsors/partners and 140 volunteers for the One Journey Festival in Washington, DC, which attracted 4,000+ people. The day-long festival showcased music, food, dance, and art by refugee performers, chefs, and artists.
  • Provide an online resource for posting urgent help requests for refugees (such as pro bono medical or legal aid referrals). Provide advice and referrals for volunteers wanting to assist individual refugee families.
  • Conduct employment mentoring workshops for refugees who were professionals in their original countries.
  • Partner with the Georgetown University School of Medicine to support community-based training for medical students focusing on health needs of refugees. Assisted students with production of orientation videos for newly arrived refugees.
  • Member of Northern Virginia Coalition for Refugee Wellness, providing community outreach and advocacy support for the Coalition’s mission of improving behavioral and psychiatric healthcare for refugees.
  • Work with and support community outreach by refugee resettlement agencies.
  • Engage and partner with students at universities and secondary schools to raise awareness of the refugee crisis, organize response activities, encourage hands-on support (e.g., English tutoring), and generate awareness of and participation in One Journey Festival. Networking