A Closer Look at City of Refuge

Imagine being driven out of not only your house, but your entire country. The pressures of keeping your family together while beginning a new life in a foreign country that primarily speaks a language you may not know sounds unbearable. For many, this is the case.

There are more than 8,000 refugees and immigrants in Mid-Missouri. In addition to this, an average of 200 new refugees come to Columbia each year.

Luckily, many non-profit organizations work to help both refugees and immigrants adapt to life in a new place. One such non-profit is City of Refuge.

Barry Stoll is the director at City of Refuge. The main purpose of the organization is to help refugees adapt to this country from their respective ones, Stoll said.

City of Refuge helps individuals and families from other countries reach doctors, find jobs, open bank accounts, learn to drive, receive household goods and more.

The organization also has programs the community can take part in. Through City of Refuge, families in Columbia can help a family from another country navigate their new surroundings. They can also aid in transportation. This includes tasks such as taking someone to a doctor’s appointment or to the grocery store.

City of Refuge also offers training opportunities in tutoring, driving lessons and opening mail. Although these may seem like simple, everyday tasks, many immigrants and refugees are new to them and need a teacher.

Jen Wheeler, Board President and the founder of City of Refuge, started a cleaning company by the name of Safi Sana in 2010. Safi Sana is fully insured and includes both liability and worker’s comp. The business employs Americans, refugees and immigrants. Safi Sana has now employed more than 40 refugees. Most refugees working for Safi Sana eventually graduate into full-time positions at other companies in Columbia.

United Way has enabled City of Refuge with enough funding to support staff, projects and more, according to Stoll. Although City of Refuge accepts volunteers, it has many needs that require a paid staff, and Stoll says that United Way has made all the difference.

“I think United Way is aware that they’re not just filling a need. They are enabling people to become viable, productive members of our community, not just putting a Band-Aid over something,” Stoll said. “They are causing success in both their lives and our community." 

Heart of Missouri United Way is proud to support and fund City of Refuge and all of our other partner agencies. Click here to join us.