More than two decades ago, Vivien Jacob came to America from Iran looking for a better life. The International Rescue Committee was there to help her resettle in her new country and now she is part of the 80-year-old organization's mission to bring refugees from harm to home.
"Imagine leaving from one state to another. Everything is new," Jacob said.
In 2013, the International Rescue Committee's 22 regional offices helped resettle some 8,700 newly arrived refugees and provided services to promote self-reliance and integration to over 38,000 refugees, asylees, victims of human trafficking and other immigrants.
Here in Turlock, the IRC helps incoming refugees — the majority of which are fleeing the war or religious persecution in Iraq and Iran — to find homes, jobs, enroll in school, learn English, apply for citizenship, become integrated into the community and with immigration assistance.
Although the influx of refugees to Stanislaus County has dropped in recent years — from 505 in 2008 to 95 in 2013 — the need for assistance remains. IRC volunteers work with refugee families to fill out paperwork for assistance and to get basic services, take refugees to official appointments, and help them learn English.
Geri Bogdanich has been volunteering at the Turlock IRC for the past six months. She got involved with the nonprofit organization as a way to better understand what her parents went through.
"My parents were both refugees, Croatians from the former Yugoslavia," Bogdanich said. "Even though the refugees have different faces, I can now identify with what my parents went through...culture changes, language...I really appreciate what they must have gone through."
Bogdanich helps new refugees with resume writing and how to enter the U.S. education system.
"What all these people have in common with my parents is they all came here to create a better life for their families," she said.
To find out more about services available at the Turlock IRC, or for information on volunteering, call 667-2378.