Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

World Relief claims most of their required items for refugees are bought, not donated

Posted by Christopher Coen on February 13, 2010

World Relief in Fort Wayne, Indiana is claiming that it purchases most of the required items for refugees (see article). 

The long, detailed checklist of furnishings, kitchen items, linens, cleaning supplies, toiletries and food for each refugee adds up. Jeff Keplar, director of World Relief in Fort Wayne, said his agency must buy the majority of the items refugees need and rely on donated items to make up the difference.   

Yet, used items are acceptable, so how impressive is his claim? How much could these items cost at garage sales and second-hand stores? Not much. In FY2008 World Relief got 64% of its funding from the government (see 990 form), which must be even higher today due to the doubling of the State Department’s R&P grant. I suspect that their refugee resettlement program in the US must depend almost entirely on public funds. So the fact that they have to purchase a few items isn’t too impressive, especially when you know they are using taxpayer funds to do it.

The “long, detailed checklist” of required items, referred to in the article, is actually a relatively short list. Here it is:   



Bedding (described as bed frame and spring, or equivalent, and mattress) appropriate for age and gender composition of family. (Only married couples or small children of the same sex may be expected to share beds.)   

One set of drawers, shelves, or other unit appropriate for storage of clothing (in addition to closet, unless closet has shelving to accommodate clothing) per family   

One kitchen table per family   

One kitchen chair per person   

One couch per family, or equivalent seating (in addition to kitchen chairs)   

One lamp per room, unless installed lighting is present   

Kitchen items:   

One place setting of tableware (fork, knife, spoon) per person   

One place setting of dishes (plate, bowl and cup) per person   

Pots and pans: at least one sauce pan, one frying pan, one baking dish   

Mixing/serving bowls   

One set of kitchen utensils (such as spatula, wooden spoon, knife, serving utensils, etc.)   

Can opener   

Baby items as needed   

Linens and Other Household Supplies:   

One towel per person   

One set of sheets and blankets for each bed   

One pillow and pillowcase for each person   

Alarm clock   

Paper, pens and/or pencils   

Light bulbs   

Cleaning supplies:   

Dish soap   

Bathroom/kitchen cleanser   

Sponges or cleaning rags and/or paper towels   

Laundry detergent   

Two waste baskets   

Mop or broom   

Trash bags   


Toilet paper   



One toothbrush per person   


Personal hygiene items as appropriate   


Appropriate seasonal clothing required for work, school, and everyday use as required for all members of the family, including proper footwear for each member of the family, and diapers for children as necessary.   


Now, is it me or is this list not exactly long, and consist of just a few basic items a family needs to start a new life?  Aren’t these just obvious items that resettlement agencies would supply for the refugees even if they didn’t have this list in the government contract? Why do they keep telling reporters how burdomsome and extensive their requirements are?

Notice that the list doesn’t even contain such basic, needed items as clothes irons, curtains, wallets, phones and phone service, stamps & envelopes, dictionaries, umbrellas, watches and vacuums (needed to keep carpeting clean so that it doesn’t attract roaches). Basic children’s items that are not required include, cribs, toddler beds, play pens, car seats, boosters, high chairs, and strollers.   

I think that reporters should take a look at the basic contract documents of the refugee resettlement program instead of just taking the word of these agencies, that their requirements are so strenuous or expensive – because they aren’t.   

It should also be pointed out that often the resettlement agencies don’t even provide these “required” items.  Check out this report about World Relief refugee clients in Nashville who didn’t get furniture or adequate clothing. Also, in many resettlement sites community members often buy these items for refugees when resettlement agencies such as World Relief fail to fullfill these so-called “minimum standards” of their government refugee contracts.

2 Responses to “World Relief claims most of their required items for refugees are bought, not donated”

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