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Connecting with Refugees

// June 15, 2018

Beyond Our Borders: Giving Abroad and at Home

World Refugee Day reminds us of the opportunities many of us have each day to welcome and connect with refugees in Colorado. Over half a million Coloradans are foreign born – roughly 10 percent of the state’s total population. Each year, over 2,100 refugees from 30 different countries come to Colorado to work in fields from tourism to agriculture, pursue higher education, and create safe and secure lives for their children.

The women who support Beyond Our Borders, a group-advised fund hosted by The Women’s Foundation of Colorado, know that our lives are interconnected, no matter where we live. Since 1999, Beyond Our Borders has provided grants to nonprofit organizations that directly serve women and girls around the world and advance equity and social justice.

“Beyond Our Borders is a community of thoughtful and intentional grantmakers,” said member Laurie Hirschfeld Zeller. “The learning is tremendous, and the relationships Beyond Our Borders builds with our grantees are so valuable.”

Granting to U.S.-based nonprofits that advance women internationally

Beyond Our Borders members donate $2,000 each year, or $1,000 for young professionals, and then come together to direct their dollars to U.S.-based nonprofits that advance opportunity for women internationally. Their most recent grantees include the Syrian Relief & Development training program that supports young women living in refugee camps as they acquire the skills to find careers as healthcare workers.

In 2017 and 2018, a group of Beyond Our Borders community members also dedicated their time and treasure to a project that supports immigrants and refugees in Colorado.

“Recently, the foundation community, including The Women’s Foundation, has experienced an increase in requests from local refugee and immigrant-serving organizations,” says Lauren Y. Casteel, president and CEO of The Women’s Foundation. “We knew that the donors and volunteers of Beyond Our Borders care deeply about women all around the world, and we value their partnership. So we asked them to think about how they could build connections here in Colorado to the women they serve globally.”

Investing in a critical resource for refugees in Colorado

Beyond our Borders volunteers committed to raising funds for Colorado Refugee Volunteer Connect, a collaborative project involving 50 refugee-serving nonprofits across Colorado that will create a much-needed website. Many Colorado residents have reached out to immigrant-serving organizations in recent months, inspired by America’s long tradition of welcoming immigrants. The new website will recruit, orient, and train new volunteers.

“The refugee crisis and changing political climate created a surge of goodwill from the community, but many organizations weren’t set up to train and accommodate the overwhelming interest of new volunteers. Through this project, our donor group could have a direct impact and support local communities,” explains Laurie.

Beyond Our Borders members have now raised all the funds necessary to launch Colorado Refugee Volunteer Connect later this summer. Post-launch, they look forward to volunteering with participating nonprofits across our state and continuing to educate the community about refugee and immigrant experiences in America.

As part of Beyond Our Borders members’ active fundraising and education efforts in late 2017, Denver author Helen Thorpe joined with a standing room-only crowd to talk about her new book, The Newcomers. It follows 22 new Americans, many of whom moved to Colorado directly from refugee camps, over the course of a year at Denver’s South High School.

If you’re interested in learning more about Beyond Our Borders, contact Colleen LaFontaine, WFCO director of development, at colleenl@wfco.org or 303-285-2963.

Please stay tuned for more updates from WFCO about the launch of Colorado Refugee Volunteer Connect.

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