The Trump administration recently signed a new travel ban that will keep refugees from six predominantly-Muslim countries from entering the U.S. for 120 days. But there are numerous organizations that are working hard to support the refugees that are already here.
These organizations include small, local charities to huge, national corporations. In Maine, an organization called Furniture Friends embraces these new residents and helps them get settled. Because the average sofa lasts up to 15 years, donors are making sure their leftover furniture is put to good use. By collecting donated furniture and distributing it to those in need, these volunteers help make a house into a home.
Local students donate their time and effort in exchange for community service hours, but they’re also grateful for the opportunity to learn more about refugee lives that are so different from their own. One Syrian family helped by the organization arrived in Maine this past November and had been sleeping on the floor ever since. The children’s room had only blankets on the ground, but now, the family’s two sons get to sleep in twin beds.
Jenn McAdoo, who runs Furniture Friends, explained to WCSH6, “I think those of us who are privileged take for granted what it means to have a bed to sleep on or a dining table to eat our meals from.”
McAdoo tells her student volunteers that it’s not only the furniture that makes a difference in these refugees’ lives: “You guys don’t realize the value of the service that you provide. I mean, yeah, the furniture is important, but you’re really making a difference in connecting to the people that we’re delivering to, to make them feel valued and valuable.”
Furniture Friends relies on donations and volunteers to stay up and running, especially now that the demand for their services has increased. McAdoo notes, “Three years ago, we served about 180 families. Two years ago, we served 320 families. Last year, we served over 430 families.”
In addition to the refugee families they help, the organization also serves those with mental or physical disabilities and new residents who are simply in need of additional support. And although the temporary travel ban may effect how many immigrants are able to come to the U.S. for now, McAdoo expects that Furniture Friends will continue to stay busy.
Meanwhile, national chains are stepping up as well. In reaction to Trump’s first travel ban, Starbucks chief executive Howard Schultz pledged to hire 10,000 refugees in the next five years. Schultz noted in a letter to Starbucks employees that the ban effectively called the American Dream into question and that “the civility and human rights we have all taken for granted for so long are under attack.”
But Schultz’s promise evidently carried a steep price. YouGov found that Starbucks’ consumer perception levels took a substantial and immediate hit after Schultz’s announcement. Those levels fell by two-thirds between January 29th and February 13th and have yet to recover. Before Schultz made his pledge, around 30% of consumers said they’d consider buying something from Starbucks during their next coffee purchase; that number fell to 24% after his comments, and now reads at 26%.
The future of Trump’s travel ban may be in question for now, but no matter what happens, these organizations will continue to provide hope and new opportunities to those who need it most.