Each year at this time, Refugees NW comes together to honor and celebrate the diversity of culture, tradition, and resilience our multicultural neighbors bring to our communities. We immerse ourselves in the beauty of their homelands – their music, dancing, food – at our annual event, Taste of the World, in celebration of World Refugee Day.
Sadly, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re not able to host Taste of the World in person this year. This event raises more than $40,000 each year to support the work of Refugees NW, and the people we serve are in desperate need of those dollars to help them become stabilized due to the impacts of COVID-19. COVID-19 has brought some significant challenges to multicultural communities.
Impacts of unemployment – While many of our multicultural families are not eligible to work in the US, many of those that were employed have been laid off due to the crisis. Frequently, they are not eligible for unemployment due to their immigration status. As a result, our families are experiencing a surge in food and housing instability – King County alone reports an increase of more than 10,000 households requesting basic food assistance – and many landlords are not abiding by eviction restrictions.
Disproportionate rate of infection – Public Health data shows that Black individuals are catching COVID-19 at more than double the rate of White individuals (325-375 cases per 100,000 vs 150), and Hispanic/Latinx individuals are getting sick at more than four times the rate (500-800 cases per 100,000). Geographically, there are higher rates of infection in neighborhoods with large multicultural populations. In addition, while rates of infections are declining in white populations, they continue to rise for multicultural communities.
Social stigma and fear – We recognize that our multicultural neighbors already face social stigma due to the color of their skin, their religion, their language, their accent, and/or their immigration status. Particularly now, asking people of color to put on a mask to enter a grocery store, gas station, or convenience store is asking them to put their lives at risk. For many of the people we serve, the social unrest sparked by the killing of George Floyd is also triggering significant PTSD and anxiety.
Lack of education about the virus itself – Many of our new neighbors are English Language Learners, and find the frequently-changing information about COVID-19 confusing and difficult to understand. While resources in other languages are available, connecting the clients with educational resources to protect themselves from COVID-19 is difficult.
How are we responding to these needs?
Since early March Refugees NW has:
- Transitioned all of our staff to working remotely, providing telehealth services so that our neighbors continue to receive the mental health and counseling support they need. For those individuals who need face-to-face contact or do not have access to technology, we offer by-appointment, socially distanced office hours in both our SeaTac and Everett locations.
- Created free food pantries in SeaTac and Everett, focused on providing culturally relevant, nutritious foods that meet our clients’ dietary restrictions, as well as hygiene items not covered by SNAP benefits.
- Provided nearly $25,000 in rental assistance vouchers to keep our neighbors in their homes.
- Delivered COVID education in more than 17 languages to help our neighbors keep themselves and their families as safe and healthy as possible.
- Provided more than 275 free masks to staff and clients to help them stay healthy.
How can you help?
In addition to being a celebration of culture and resiliency, Taste of the World is a fundraiser. Now, more than ever, our multicultural neighbors need the services and support that those dollars provide. The dollars you give are providing tangible, necessary support to our most vulnerable neighbors in need.
We also welcome in-kind donations of hygiene items, non-perishable foods, baby items, or the gift of your time in packing our donations into kits for our families. A list of items we need is available by clicking here.
Now, more than ever, our refugee, asylee, and immigrant neighbors need the services and support funded by Taste of the World. Please stand with our multicultural neighbors, and make a donation today.
Again, thank you so much for your support of our multicultural neighbors. We look forward to celebrating with you in person, in 2021.