MISSION & VISION.
To bring people & resources together to empower refugees to thrive.
To see all refugees in Salem as valued, thriving, contributing members of our community.
We believe that the relationships between refugees who resettle in Salem and the volunteers & community members who welcome
them are transformative for all parties.
We believe that the role of Salem For Refugees is to help our new neighbors discover the tools and resources they need to become confident in
making their own decisions and achieving their own goals as they resettle in Salem.
People of Faith & Goodwill:
We believe our community is made stronger as
people of faith and people of goodwill work together towards a common mission of
welcoming our new neighbors.
In early 2021, Salem For Refugees was approached by World Relief about becoming an affiliate site. As one of the 9 State Department funded refugee resettlement agencies, this affiliate relationship will allow SFR to receive cases directly through World Relief and bring long-term refugee resettlement directly to Salem, OR.
Refugee resettlement has been taking place in the state of Oregon since 1975. Initially, the Salem community helped to welcome many refugees, particularly from Vietnam and Cambodia. But for the past 30 years, all refugees who were chosen for resettlement in the state of Oregon, were resettled in the Portland metro area.
Due to the rising costs of housing in Portland, the Resettlement Agency Catholic Charities expanded resettlement to the city of Salem at the end of 2015 through the courageous leadership of resettlement expert, Jenny Barischoff. There was an overwhelming response of community support and volunteer efforts throughout the city. The community quickly realized the need for a centralized coordinating entity to develop the long-term infrastructure needed to support refugee resettlement in the city.
In October 2016, Salem Leadership Foundation, in partnership with Catholic Charities and Salem Alliance Church, hosted a series of lunch meetings called “Welcoming Our New Neighbors.” The purpose of these meetings was to bring together the various groups and organizations that were seeking to care for refugees and explore how the efforts could be coordinated.
At this same time, Salem For Refugees’ founders, Doug & Anya Holcomb, returned from Eastern Europe where they witnessed the global refugee crisis first-hand at a refugee camp in Macedonia. As they met refugees in Salem who were forced to flee their homelands due to war, persecution and violence, they, along with Salem Alliance Church, felt compelled to respond. They joined the Salem Alliance Church staff as Pastors of Refugee Ministries. Motivated by the teachings of Jesus to “love your neighbor as yourself,” they began to dream of a community that would welcome our global neighbors in the same way that we would hope to be welcomed if we were in their shoes.
Doug and Anya joined the “Welcoming Our New Neighbors” meetings. At the end of the meetings, they presented the group with an idea to form a network called Salem For Refugees to continue the community collaboration in caring for refugees. The group voted, “Yes!” and Salem For Refugees was born!
Salem Alliance Church caught the vision from the beginning and allocated time in Doug and Anya’s staff roles to lead Salem For Refugees. They also provided significant start-up funding, office space, facility use, vehicles, volunteers, and more. Salem Leadership Foundation stepped up to be the fiscal sponsor of Salem For Refugees, providing bookkeeping, accounting, organizational coaching, and invaluable community connections.
Along with these two founding partners, Salem For Refugees works with a broad network of volunteers, faith communities, businesses, non-profits, government organizations, resettlement agencies, and civic groups to provide services and resources to make our city a welcoming place for refugees – our new neighbors.
In 2021, Salem For Refugees became an official Refugee Resettlement Agency as an affiliate of an international organization called World Relief. We are contracted with World Relief to do direct Reception and Placement of new refugee arrivals that are designated to World Relief through the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement.
During this time, Salem For Refugees also became our own independent 501c3 nonprofit organization. We are so grateful to our founding partners Salem Alliance Church, Salem Leadership Foundation, and Catholic Charities of Oregon for sharing our vision and helping us reach this milestone as an organization. Our founding partners continue to support Salem For Refugees and maintain ongoing representation on the Salem For Refugees Board of Directors.
Salem For Refugees has welcomed hundreds of refugees, asylees, and asylum seekers from a variety of countries including Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Ivory Coast, Sudan, South Sudan, Ukraine & Venezuela.
We have seen these courageous new neighbors positively impact Salem/Keizer in more ways than can be counted. It is an incredible privilege to walk alongside them and learn from them as they establish their lives in the community.