Christmas Project – Sponsor a Family

Every year at Refugee Focus we host an annual Christmas Project.  This Christmas Project is an opportunity for members of our community to help make our clients feel more welcome in the community.  Individuals, families, community organizations, churches and other groups are given the opportunity to purchase Christmas gifts for families that were resettled in Phoenix and the surrounding area over the course of 2016.

All we ask those who participate to do in return is fill out a donation receipt, so that we can track our donations.  We can then submit our receipts for matching grant funds provided by federal grant money.  The gifts can be either delivered by the donor or they can be dropped off to our office and we can deliver them ourselves.

For gift ideas, we recommend clothing items, kitchenware, and bedding.  We also recommend used bikes, toys, games, and books for children.  Gift cards to places like target and Walmart are also excellent so the families themselves can decide what it is they really need among clothing, food, and other items.

If you are interested in being assigned a family or have a group or church that might be interested in multiple families, please feel free to contact public communications specialist, Phillip Price.  He can be reached by email at or by phone at 602.248.440.102.

Women’s Empowerment Event

On Thursday, August 11th, Refugee Focus’s Women’s Empowerment program hosted a booth at the Fair Trade Café in downtown Phoenix.  The event allowed for the Women’s Empowerment team to showcase goods made by clients involved in the program.  All of the goods sold were handmade.  They include jewelry and other various sewn goods.

The majority of the money made from items sold is returned to the woman who made the item.  This provides the ladies with a supplemental income.

The event also allowed for Refugee Focus to get out in the community and raise awareness about our presence in Phoenix and the services that we provide.

We were also fortunate enough to have a small group of musicians from the Arizona State’s School of Music accompany us with some nice music.

Thank you to everyone who came out and to the Fair Trade Café for their partnership and support!


Morrison Ranch – School Supply Drive

Last week, three representatives from Refugee Focus appeared at an event hosted by members of Morrison Ranch in Gilbert, AZ.  Morrison Ranch is a large community made up of nearly 1,700 homes.

The event marked the end of a school supply drive that was put on by two wonderful women, Alyson Ryan and Ashleigh Smith, along with Alyson’s eight year old daughter, Josie.  Both Alyson and Ashleigh’s husbands also pitched in by hosting drives at their respective places of work, Bio Human Netics and Pivotal Tax Solutions.

The efforts were spearheaded by Josie, who first learned about the global plight of refugees in her church class.  After learning about their situations, she wanted to help in some way.  Without Josie’s creativity and yearning to help refugees, this event could not have happened.

The celebration boasted a food truck and a shaved iced truck, along with the Fantastic Firetruck, which uses its hose to cool kids off during the summer heat.  Refugee Focus also held a booth with information on resettlement, volunteering, and donations.

Overall, dozens of people showed up and we received a very large number of backpacks and other various school supplies.  The children of the community even wrote letters of encouragement to put in the backpacks for the refugee children who will be enrolled in schools throughout the valley.

We want to extend our sincerest gratitude to the members of Morrison Ranch, especially Alyson, Ashleigh, and Josie, for their outstanding support in our efforts

  • Eight year old Josie Ryan who spearheaded this event and donation drive.

World Refugee Day 2016

Happy World Refugee Day! Today marks the 15th annual World Refugee Day. The United Nations General Assembly decided in 2000 that starting in 2001, June 20th would be celebrated as World Refugee Day. World Refugee Day gives the United Nations and other private and public institutions all over the world the opportunity to celebrate refugees and bring their plight to the public’s attention.

Here at Refugee Focus, we celebrated our World Refugee Day by hosting a free public event on Friday, June 17th. The event included an award ceremony featuring four former clients by highlighting their extraordinary accomplishments since being resettled in the Valley area. We also awarded one volunteer for her incredible commitment to apartment set-ups.

Following the award ceremony, we are able to enjoy a drumming and dance procession from three different African countries. The three groups then came together for a final song to express their solidarity and connection as new members of American society.

The event ended late in the evening with the sounds of a jazz trio, food, beverage, and mingling.

Below, you can find a link to KJZZ, where our event was featured on Morning Edition. You can also view some photos from the event and the video that was created to highlight our awardees.


Awardee Video:

2016 World Bazaar

Refugee Focus will be participating in this year’s World Bazaar hosted by the International Rescue Committee.  The World Bazaar is being held on Saturday, May 7th from 10am-2pm.  It is located at 19th Avenue and Camelback and is directly off of the light rail.  The Bazaar will have food, music and vendors with goods from around the world.  Over 2000 people are expected to attend this convenient location.

We will be hosting a booth that will have home-made products created by our clients for sale.  These items include unique Mother’s Day gifts, summer tote bags, fun cosmetic zipper bags, and beautiful jewelry.  The products are hand-made by women from Afghanistan, Somalia, the Congo, and Iraq.  We expect to there from 10am to around 1pm.  Come visit our booth for unique and inexpensive gifts.

For more information on the event check out the Facebook page here:

Ladies Earn Achievement Awards in Sewing Program. Volunteer Trudy.Zahera.Louise

A couple of our women who create goods to sell through our sewing program.


Some of the materials used by our women for their handmade goods.

AZ Gives Day 2016: Results

Last Monday, April 5, marked the second year that Refugee Focus participated in AZ Gives Day. The results were phenomenal. As a whole, with our parent organization Lutheran Social Services-South West and its other agencies, we raised over $50,000. This far exceeded our goal of $30,000. The donations came in from 340 people at an average of $151 per person.

LSS-SW placed 5th on the Large Nonprofit Leaderboard and was awarded a $5,000 prize furnished by FirstBank. We also placed 9th overall for total money raised among over 900 nonprofits that participated in the online campaign. The total amount raised by all of the participating nonprofit organizations was an astounding $2.6 million. This was a 30% increase from the total amount raised during AZ Gives Day last year.

Refugee Focus will be receiving a portion of the funds that were donated to LSS-SW on top of what our individual fundraisers brought in on their own. This money, as previously stated, is going to be used to benefit our Women’s Empowerment Program, which provides incredibly valuable services for our vulnerable women clients.

We want to extend a gracious thanks to everyone who participated in this years day of giving. Your contributions are valued greatly and will be helping to keep one of our favorite programs alive and thriving.


Arizona Gives Day – April 5, 2016

Arizona Gives Day is a 24 hour online campaign that allows individuals to give to nonprofit organizations located within the state.  The day of giving occurs once a year every spring and was started in 2013.

The total amount raised has grown annually as the campaign has increased in publicity and overall participating nonprofits and donors.  Last year, Arizona Gives Day raised $2,054,417 between 537 nonprofit organizations.  Over 12,260 donors logged on to donate to their nonprofit/s of choice.  The average gift per donor was an incredible $86.

Last year, in hand with our parent organization, Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest (LSS-SW), we participated in this online day of giving and raised over $20,000.  This year, any money raised for the Refugee Focus Phoenix Office through LSS-SW or our individual fundraisers, will benefit our Women’s Empowerment Program.  Money raised for the Refugee Focus Tucson office will be going towards employment services.

Phoenix Office:

Women’s Empowerment launched in 2007. The program initially began with classes for product development and women’s health. It has grown substantially over the last nine years and is now serving some 50 refugee women a month.

Some of the current classes include sewing, business development, leadership development, nutrition, computer skills, and health.  One of our staff also sets up field trips for the women to go on in order to show them around and familiarize them with the community and what it has to offer.  These classes and field trips give women who are coming from incredibly traumatic backgrounds the ability to grow, socialize, and potentially make a small amount of income for themselves or their families.

Women’s Empowerment has been funded through grants and personal donations from the start.  This has allowed us at Refugee Focus to employ two full time staff to coordinate and oversee the numerous classes and field trips.  Currently, the program has no grant funding, so it is up to community to ensure that these programs and the women that they serve are able to stay afloat.

Tucson Office:

In Tucson, any money raised for the Refugee Focus office will be going towards our employment services.  These are used in order to help clients find and maintain employment and achieve the ultimate goal of resettlement: self-sufficiency.

It is incredibly challenging moving to a new country and trying to find work.  Our employment specialists offer help in locating potential employers, filling out applications and resumes, and preparing clients for interviews.

At both our Phoenix and Tucson locations we will graciously accept any help that you are willing to offer in our time of need.  We would like extend special thanks to Arizona Gives Day for providing us with this outlet to raise money for two divisions of our offices that we value greatly.

You can donate to any of our offices’ individual donors here:

Phoenix Office

Tucson Office

Or you can choose to donate to Refugee Focus through our parent organization (LSS-SW) here:

  • Associate Director, Dragan, posing with ASU graduate students in favor our online fundraising campaign.



Family Literacy Program

Last Friday marked the launch of a new program at Refugee focus, Family Literacy.  Family Literacy has been a project in the making and was developed by our ELT Coordinator, Rebecca, and Programs Intern, Ariel.  These two have worked diligently in order to create a program that is catered towards refugee women and their children.

The class is designed to allow women to become more involved in the role of teaching their children in their new home country.  The goal is to give women and children the chance to boost their literacy levels together.  Our Programs Intern, Ariel, said this about the program, “One of the main aspects we will convey to the mothers is that it is okay if they speak very little or no English-the mother/child pair can still boost their literacy levels by simply look at books together…”.

Family Literacy is a six week program that will be running every Friday until April 29.  The class runs for two and half hours.  The first hour of the class is spent with just the mothers, while their children are looked after in our in-house childcare.  During this first hour, the mothers will be taught about good teaching practices and how to best read with their children to achieve the desired goal of increased literacy.  This time will allow for the mothers to ask questions and to have discussions on any progress they have noticed with their own reading or their child’s.  The second hour of the class will bring the children into the room.  They will read with their mothers in pairs.  Each pair will receive a new book every week that will correlate with a weekly theme.  After the reading session, the class will conclude with an arts and crafts learning activity, which will also go along with the week’s theme.  This will help stimulate the learning process and will be a fun activity for the children.

Many of the art and crafts supplies and books that we will be offered during this program were part of a large in-kind donation from the Central Christian Church, Ahwatukee Campus Team.  We would like to extend our gratitude to the church for their humbling donation and continued efforts in seeking to achieve successful resettlement for our clients.

Montana State University Week of Service

Last week, we had a group of students from Montana State University donate the entirety of the Spring Break to volunteering with our agency.  The service they provided for us was exemplary.

The group made the two day trek down the weekend of March 12th and began their work with us on Monday, March 14th.  They spent their first day here with an orientation about why there are refugees and the basics on how the resettlement process works.  They were also able to learn about the cultures of the refugees that we resettle and how to appropriately interact with people of these backgrounds.  After their introduction, the group hosted a resume writing workshop for our clients who are seeking employment.  They had a good time with this and really felt that they were able to make an impact in some of our client’s new lives.  They finished the day with a documentary and discussion with one of our case managers.

On Tuesday, our MSU volunteers went on a campus tour of downtown ASU with some teenage clients who will soon be graduating and looking to potentially pursue higher education.  That afternoon, the volunteers went with our housing VISTA, Jessica, to one of the apartment complexes where we resettle a large number of our clients.  Here they helped the maintenance and management by painting and renovating a new apartment and passing out fliers to tenants.

Wednesday morning consisted of picking up a large number of donated clothing items from The Welcome to America Project.  After the donations were brought back to the office, the MSU students sorted and organized them.  This was followed by an incredibly successful clothing drive.  Around 180 clients were served and a total of 477 items of clothing were given away.  The volunteers spent the remainder of Wednesday doing busy work, which included moving and sorting files.

Thursday may have been the busiest day of the week. The volunteers took a group of Congolese high school girls to a workshop called Girls Thriving run by the Fresh Start Women’s Center.  The focus of these workshops is to work on good self-esteem and self-confidence practices. Following this workshop, the MSU students went with our Women’s Employment Specialist, Michele, and full time ASU intern, Ariel, to Park Day.  They played with client’s children at a local park and had fun with different toys and bubbles that the kids were allowed to keep afterwards.  Later that afternoon, the volunteers were able to attend an airport pick up with our case manager, Zahra.  The arrival was an Eritrean family consisting of a mother and her three sons.

On the volunteers’ final day, they went with our Child Services Specialist, Camille, and a small group of volunteers from ASU to assist in an apartment cleanup.  They helped to clean a playground at one of the apartment complexes where a lot of clients are living.  This was followed by a lunch with a Somali refugee family.  The students helped prepare the lunch at the First United Methodist Church.  They made authentic goat stew and chapati. The MSU volunteers expressed that this was a great way to end their week of service, as they were able to “see the positive end result of resettlement” that came from the hard work of the refugee family and our agency.

  • MSU students checking clients in and out at the clothes bank.

International Women’s Day 2016

International Women’s Day occurs every year on March 8.  This is a day used to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women all over the world.  Yet, it is also used as a way of highlighting progress that still needs to take place here in the United States and all over the world regarding gender equality.

LSS-SW CEO Connie Phillips offered a brief introduction to kick off the event.

LSS-SW CEO Connie Phillips offered a brief introduction to kick off the event.

At Refugee Focus, we celebrated International Women’s Day by hosting an informative event where we taught community members of Phoenix about our services, most specifically related to our Women’s Empowerment Program.  Our two women’s empowerment specialists, Hannah and Michele, had the opportunity to present a slideshow, which discussed the process of refugee resettlement and highlighted some of the programs that they offer.  Some of these programs include health and wellness, job readiness and sewing and computer classes for refugee women.

Women's Empowerment Specialist, Hannah Miller, shares a laugh with our audience.

Women’s Empowerment Specialist, Hannah Miller, shares a laugh with our audience.

Our audience at the event was an impressive group of women (and a few men).  We had representatives present from many important organizations in Phoenix, including but not limited to, Phoenix Libraries, Phoenix Women’s Commission, Arizona Women’s Partnership, the City of Phoenix (Human Services, Parks and Rec, and Housing), and both the Phoenix Police and Fire Departments.

A local Phoenix Fire Department member offers her testimonial.

A local Phoenix Fire Department member offers her testimonial.

At the end of the presentation, we allowed time for many of these representatives to introduce themselves and talk about the services that their organizations provide.  The event was a valuable way for not only Refugee Focus to network, but for the other organizations as well.  We ended the event with tours of the office for those that were interested.