25 Jun 3.4 Furnishings and Clothing
Users of this online learning resource are responsible for connecting with government and local organizations to ensure access to relevant information on refugee sponsorship in their community.
Many of these tasks are dependent on pre-arrival information. You may be able to find out clothing sizes in advance and knowledge of the family size and composition will give your group a sense of the type and quantity of furniture and other items they will require. The timing of arrival may signal a need to acquire seasonal clothing such as winter coats. Your group may also consider its capacity to find and store furnishings and clothing before arrival. Where information is lacking, you may still wish to gather a variety of items, which can be returned or re-donated should they not be required.
Here are some strategies you may consider to secure furnishings and clothing for the people you will be welcoming:
- Raise awareness of the need for furnishing and clothing donations.
- Research availability of furniture and clothing banks, as well as other sources of donated or low-cost items.
- Verify clothing sizes; this may not be possible without pre-arrival communication with the refugee newcomers.
- Purchase new items that would be inappropriate to receive as donations or used such as towels, linens, undergarments, socks, and shoes.
- Organize the storage of furnishings and clothing.
- Prepare the new home with furnishings. This will depend on whether housing – temporary or permanent – has been secured.
- Ensure that the kitchen is stocked with staples and that wardrobes have what may be appropriate for the culture and seasonal weather.
- If the weather is cold, make sure to bring warm clothing to the airport for the refugee newcomers to have upon arrival. If small children are part of the family, make sure to also bring car seats to the airport.
As with fundraising, think of refugees’ privacy and confidentiality when pitching for donated furnishings. For example, sponsorship groups have used Facebook groups to organize furniture donations. If feasible, refugee newcomers may join these Facebook groups themselves and work with their sponsorship groups to select suitable pieces of furniture for their home. In such online spaces, it will be important to consider what personal information to share about refugee newcomers and discuss with the individuals themselves issues around privacy on social media.
Privacy and Confidentiality
- Have a conversation with the refugee newcomers to determine additional furnishing and clothing needs, including budget.
- Continue raising awareness on the need for furnishing and clothing donations in your network, if needed.
- Continue researching the availability of furniture and clothing banks, as well as other sources, if needed.
- Arrange for seasonal clothes shopping. For example, winter coats, boots, hats, wool socks, mittens.
- Coordinate moving the furnishings into the refugee newcomers’ new home.
Donations, Gifts, Choosing Items
Your sponsorship group may choose to describe the furnishings and clothing you have collected as “gifts” rather than “donations.” There are many potential reasons for this, including being sensitive to the differing values assigned to second-hand or donated items in different cultures. You may also decide to buy some new items for refugee newcomers as gifts, though this is up to your judgement and should be discussed with your sponsorship group.
- Your group need to ensure the items collected are in good condition.
- Refugee newcomers may worry about the condition of the furnishings, or even if they are safe to use (e.g. if used furniture has bed bugs) so some testing and demonstration of items may be required.
- You may choose to maintain a storage of furnishings for the refugee newcomers. After their arrival, they can select which stored items they would like to use in their new home.
- Anything remaining can be saved or donated to another sponsorship group.
You and your group members should not assume that everything you collect, donate or buy will be liked. Group members can discuss strategies to ensure the refugee newcomers’ needs and concerns about items in their household are heard, find ways to address them and manage expectations on both sides.
Refugees newcomers may at times decide to not use the donated furnishings, instead giving them away or to sell them. Understandably, this may disappoint or frustrate sponsors. If sponsors are concerned this may happen, they may wish to discuss with the refugees their furnishing needs and any budgetary limits to ensure they are getting the proper support.
To explore a scenario involving gifts and donations, proceed to the boxes below
Donations and Gifts Scenario
One evening, you stop by the apartment of Jeremy – a refugee newcomer your group is sponsoring – to review his CV and discuss some potential employment opportunities you have come across through your social network. When you arrive, you realize Jeremy feels frustrated and disappointed. You ask him what is going on, and he tells you he is upset because he learned of another refugee family whose sponsorship group donated a car and a television to them, but your sponsorship group has not donated similar items to him.
Consider the following questions. When you have noted a few ideas of your own, you can click on the ‘Show More’ text, to see some suggestions.
How does the principle of ‘Managing Expectations’ play an important role in understanding this scenario?
What could the sponsoring group do to try and address this situation?
Check In: What Would You Do?
Thinking about the how this scenario relates to managing expectations, considering culture, considering power, and privacy and confidentiality, in your training journal give a brief description of how you would address this situation.