Volunteers generally work with refugee families through one of the resettlement agencies or with other local non-profits. In the following, refugees are referred to as “families,” “cases,” and “clients.”


  • Help family practice understanding U.S. currency and coins.

  • Help family learn to use a calendar for scheduling appointments and paying bills (especially rent and volunteer visits.) Teach the days of the week in English.

  • Help family learn the English words for items in their home by labeling different items with the English name.

  • Apartment Orientation: assist family in using the smoke alarm, thermostat for heating and cooling, refrigerator and freezer, stove and oven.

  • Food storage: help family understand what to store in refrigerator, freezer, and cabinets. Demonstrate use of Tupperware containers, plastic wrap, and aluminum foil.

  • Cleaning: show family how to use American cleaning products, when to clean the house, and how to take out the garbage. Demonstrate washing machine, dryer, and vacuum cleaners.

  • Make sure family has a copy of apartment lease and understands apartment rules.

  • Phone numbers: give family the contact information for resettlement agencies, case managers, and volunteers. Explain how to use 911 in case of emergencies.

  • Help family locate their mailbox and understand and recognize mail (i.e., bills, advertisements, junk mail, scams)

  • Pools: many families are not familiar with pools and do not understand how dangerous they can be, especially for small children. Explain basic pool safety to refugees.

  • Teach family how to take the city bus.

  • Park: Help families locate their closest park and show them how to walk or take the bus to get there.

  • Post Office: Visit the closest post office and provide an orientation about buying stamps, mailing letters, etc.

  • Library: Volunteers can help refugees locate the closest library branch and help them apply for a library card.

  • Markets: Locate a supermarket where families can buy food. Also help families locate international markets to purchase food they are used to from their country. Here are a few suggestions, but also ask other volunteers and refugees about nearby markets as well.