When the law school graduate Yuliya Davtyan arrived in Los Angeles from Moscow, Russia, in August 1998, her main goal was to develop her studies further, by taking classes at UCLA. But LA wasn’t only about studies and career. There, she made many friends, most of them refugees and immigrants. By getting to know them more and more deeply, she realized each family had its own story of struggle in times of war and armed conflicts.
At first, she was surprised at the lives they had lived. Some had traveled to the United States carrying with themselves only their children and the clothes that covered their bodies at the time. Most of them came to the U.S. searching for a better life for themselves and, even more importantly, looking for a brighter future for their kids.
Davtyan couldn't help but notice that a lot of her new acquaintances had lost family members among turmoil in their home countries. Since they came to one of the richest nations in the world without any money themselves, lacking clothes, legal documentation and proper knowledge of the English language, they all had to work very hard in less than ideal jobs in order to feed and clothe their families. Whether collecting furniture from the trash or buying food only from 99 cents stores, somehow they managed to stay afloat in a reality that seemed specifically designed to make them drown. It was real, day by day poverty, not the one you can read about in books or watch on TV.
It is a well-known fact that the immigrants’ and refugees’ reality in the United States has been pretty harsh in the last decades, and there’s no indications it is going to change in the near future. In 2015, the United States had a larger immigrant population than any other country in the world. At the time, approximately 47 million immigrants lived in the country's territory. This corresponds to 14.4% of the total US population and to 19.1% of the international migrants worldwide.
In the United States, one in four children lives in an immigrant family. While the costs of rent and groceries continue to increase in the U.S., 9.1 million children who come from immigrant families live in poverty. Nowadays, about 18% of American children are below the poverty line, a number that amounts to 13,250,000 kids in the country. Concerning those originally from Spanish-language countries of Latin America — the largest U.S. immigrant group by far — 25.6% of children are below the poverty line. Beyond those statistics, school dropout rates are high and college-going is low in that specific part of the population, which indicates the situations is not going to improve soon.
Besides that, the number of immigrant families crossing the southwest border of the U.S. has broken records during the first months of 2019, a trend that threatens to aggravate the immigrants' situation in the country even further.
Getting to it was only after some years had passed that Davtyan came across information about charity donations that were usually made by large chain stores. That made her think about how all those products could help families of refugees and immigrants. Based on that thought, she started developing, along with two coworkers, a one-year pilot project that could turn her idea into reality.
The project was named Produc4Home and it quickly became a great success. Women were volunteering to help at the products’ storage, and men, to move boxes and pick up donations. In the first year of the Product4Home operation, the organization distributed US$ 100,000 worth of donated products. The volume of donations was so large in the third year that they started giving a portion of all the products to other charities in bulk.
This is how the International Foundation for World Freedom (IFWF) was born. Its mission since the beginning has been to protect basic human rights of victims of war and armed conflicts, to protect those who seek harbor in fear for their lives. The main way to accomplish that is by promoting charitable programs of social service and emergency assistance, with practical measures to protect immigrants’ families, especially those with young members. The organization's actions are all based on the belief that all humans have the right to live fearlessly, with dignity and respect.
This work seems to be essential now, when the country's government looks adamant on creating mechanisms to make foreigners' lives even more difficult in the U.S. In May 2018, the American government announced a policy that forcibly separated thousands of immigrant children from their parents at the border, putting those kids into shelters or foster care. Even though this policy has been reconsidered, not all families were reunited yet, which puts those children in an even more fragile and dangerous position than where they were before.
IFWF has now come to its 15th year of operation. The Products4Home project is still at the core of the organization and it helps approximately dozens of refugee families and immigrants living in the U.S. every month. The program provides home necessities which helps immigrants and refugees to make their homes more comfortable for living, through direct public distribution of a wide variety of products.
In order to participate and receive notifications on next public distributions, the interested parts must register their email on the this website. The foundation also provides emergency assistance fund in products of first necessity for families going through critical times. If this is the case, the contact must be made by email, at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Through the “Network4Home”, directed to other charitable organizations, the foundation is also able to help numerous people indirectly, either by granting access to its catalog of available donation products or by constantly offering new donation opportunities.
IFWF is always in need of volunteers and donations, so any help is very welcome. Only together can we break the poverty cycle among those who need our help and support the most.
The International Foundation for World Freedom: An organization born of immigrants, with immigrants, for immigrants.