OCAN is a grassroots group that helps asylum seekers who have fled death threats, torture, kidnappings and other horrors in their home countries. We help them get released from ICE detention, then take them into our homes and assist them in rebuilding their lives.

Between May 1 and November 14, 2019  OCAN succeeded in getting nine asylum seekers, ages 5 to 55, released to sponsors in our community. A few more have joined us each year since then.

We personally provide food, shelter, and hospitality while connecting them with essential resources, such as legal and medical services, counseling and English classes.

Our lives have been profoundly enriched in the process. We have been moved by the stories they have shared and honored to play a part in their survival.

Please join us or support our efforts!

Ways you can help:

  • Sponsor a refugee—This is essentially opening your home for up to a year or two, providing food and housing while they pursue their legal cases and get on their feet.
  • Donate cash—Bail can run $5,000; legal fees can run $6-10,000 per person.

(No direct donation money goes to overhead!)

  • Contribute skills, expertise or resources—Help us with OCAN organizing, digital media management or fundraising. Provide refugees with medical, dental or legal services. Donate air miles to transport them from detention centers to sponsors in Oregon.
  • Befriend our refugees—Provide them with cell phones, bicycles or play dates. Introduce them to the Riverbank paths. Teach them pottery, dance or finger painting. Invite them to soccer games or concerts. Drive them to appointments. Teach them the bus system. Show them your favorite picnic site, hiking path or restaurant. Buy them shoes. Take them shopping. Provide welcome baskets. Help them find jobs. Show them how kind our community can be.


Mail donations to: OCAN, p.o. box 5961, Eugene, Or 97405

Meetings: Twice monthly zoom meetings, in Eugene, Monday nights, 5:30-7:30 p.m.  Contact one of the people listed above for the date of the next meeting.

One of our members, Sharon Franklin, started a halfway house  on the border for women and children refugees. She needs support with that operation as well.


(If you’ve attended one of my talks and are looking for the handout, WAYS YOU CAN HELP REFUGEES IN GREECE as donors or volunteers, it’s duplicated at the bottom of this web page.)

In league with international partners, I write about and conduct qualitative research in communities suffering from economic inequities, health disparities, social injustice and related challenges. Projects and partners have been focused on Haiti and, more recently, the Syrian diaspora.

My primary partnership addressing “wicked” problems in the international arena has been with the London-based Interprofessional Studio for Complexity Thinking ( ) (Previously based in Arizona.)

Our joint research paper, A Conversation with Calamity; Shedding light on the plight of Syrian refugees, was published in the Journal of Health and Human Experience in April, 2016, followed by Starting From Zero: An Exploration of Contemporary Issues in Haiti, one year later. The Haiti research led to a presentation to the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women by my co-authors in March, 2016.

Fleeing from Syria is an ordeal in itself. One part of some journeys is crossing from Turkey to Greek islands in rafts, as shown in this news clip:


If you’re looking for ways to help overseas, there are a multitude of worthy private non-profits you can support, some of which I’ve connected with in one way or another and can gladly vouch for, including:


Lifting Hands International — a humble private non-profit cobbled together by Hayley Smith, a young woman who flew to Greece to do what she could, and ended up providing extensive support for Yazidi refugees in the north, as well as Syrian refugees in Athens, on the island of Chios and in an ever-growing number of other locations throughout the Middle East.

Hayley’s group has done an amazing amount of work in just a few years. When we worked together in Greece her group had already provided:

  • Food, library, women’s center, & classes for 500+ Iraqi Yazidis.
  • Two containers of aid to Lebanon, Lesvos and Serbia.
  • Funds for refugee-run kitchens.
  • 1,100 pair of boots for Moria camp in Greece.
  • 6,000 pairs of underwear for refugees in Calais.
  • 6 weeks’ worth of food for Lavrion camp.
  • Several week’s food for Athens “squats”.
  • 368 volunteers and supplies to set up 83 incoming refugee apartments in AZ.

Hayley has a phenomenal capacity to connect with refugees. She joined up with the InterSCT team in April, 2017, serving as a phenomenal guide through the refugee world in Greece. The trip was underwritten by the University of Newcastle, Australia. (By the way, those are falafels she’s holding up, cooked by Syrian refugees on the island of Chios.)



If you’d like to either volunteer or support humanitarian efforts related to the U.S./Mexican border, the list below includes just some information about each of these worthy organizations to get you started, (edited, cut and pasted from their sites) to get a sense of what they’re about. Most are volunteer-based and provide legal, socio-medical and other support services. Please visit their websites to learn about other aspects of their work. All of them have links on their sites for making donations.

SANCTUARY CARAVAN coordinates volunteers specifically related to the caravans that have been aiming for the U.S. border since 2018.

Here are some resources listed in Yes! Magazine:

Amnesty International Americas is monitoring the situation in Mexico,

UNICEF is working with the Mexican government to provide safe drinking water, hygiene, and sanitation packs as well as assessing psychosocial support and training on nutrition and child protection.

Families Belong Together is one of several groups working with refugees in Tijuana.

Many local advocacy groups that are providing direct assistance, such as legal services, shelter, or supplies, also need support.

The Kino Border Initiative is a humanitarian assistance, education, and advocacy organization that provides shelter and food to asylum seekers. Its partnership with the Florence Project means those it serves also receive Know Your Rights training as well as some legal representation.

Both are recruiting volunteer pro bono attorneys who speak Spanish, have experience in asylum law and can make at least a five-day commitment at the border.

Donate air miles. Lawyer Moms of America contributes airline miles and money to people in shelters along the border, making it possible for those who have achieved asylum to leave and make space for new arrivals.

Volunteer to go to the border. Lawyers for Good Government seeks Spanish-speaking volunteer lawyers  with immigration/asylum experience, who can travel to Mexico over the weekend to work with legal services there to provide Know Your Rights and other information to caravan members.

Educate yourself about what’s going on in Central America and about U.S. policies in the region. Seek out credible sources of information about asylum and migration. Have conversations with others about it.

Organize and attend local events and demonstrations in support of a compassionate response to the refugees. Support speaking tours with Central Americans who can address the root causes of forced migration.

Follow posts by the two main groups accompanying the caravans—Pueblo Sin Frontreras and Al Otro Lado Both groups also accept donations, and are described in more detail below.

Tell Congress to defund hate at the border: Visit the U.S. House of Representatives website and enter your ZIP code to find out whom to contact. To reach your U.S. senator, go to the U.S. Senate website andchoose your state.


Pueblo Sin Fronteras is a transborder organization made up of human rights defenders of diverse nationality and immigration statuses that promotes accompaniment, humanitarian assistance, leadership development, recognition of human rights, and coordination of know-your-rights training along migrant routes, as well as monitoring and raising awareness of human rights abuses against migrants and refugees in Mexico and the United States. Our accompaniment does not end at the border. It continues in the immigration detention centers of the United States and the communities in Mexico and the US.
As an organization, we accompanied two Migrant Caravans in 2017 and one in the spring of 2018. Hundreds of Central American participants of those caravans received legal orientation from volunteer attorneys about their options for regularization, refugee status, and asylum, both in the United States and Mexico.

To donate:

CARACEN  CARECEN’s core programs are:

  • Comprehensive Legal Services – Serves nearly 25,000 individuals annually, with citizenship and permanent residency application assistance, legal representation for asylum applicants, unaccompanied minors and Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), U-Visas applicants and their beneficiaries, family petitions, work permit renewals and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA.)
  • Parent & Youth Center – Developing parent and youth leaders to improve their lives and their community. Improve access to quality education, increase parent participation in their child’s education and promote civic participation.
  •  Economic Development Services – Workforce development and community health for approximately 120 individuals daily. Day Labor Center. Workers’ advocacy activities and educational workshops on immigration, health, housing, ESL and conflict resolution.

To donate:

BORDER ANGELS advocates for human rights, humane immigration reform, and social justice with a special focus on the US-Mexican border.

Free and low-cost citizenship legal assistance, education on American culture, society, and legal system. Phone : +1 (619) 487-0249  Email :

AL OTRO LADO  hosts rights trainings and legal orientation workshops in migrant shelters in Tijuana, Mexico, and provides direct legal representation to detained asylum seekers in Southern California. The program documents human rights violations committed against asylum seekers at the port-of-entry and inside immigration detention, and the project’s data has been cited by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Human Rights First. Tel. 323-238-9935

IMMIGRANT DEFENDERS  ImmDef’s Children’s Representation Project is one of the largest U.S. programs of its kind providing representation and pro bono placement (referrals for free representation by outside attorneys) for more than 500 children each year, including refugees, unaccompanied children and foster youth. We provide full-scale deportation defense, which includes advocacy before immigration court, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and California state courts. Tel: (213) 634-0999  Email:



Groups I’ve had some contact or connection with, or which  my research team was honored to cross paths with in Greece include:


homeofhopeTibetan Home of Hope is another shoestring operation doing great things. “Tibetan Home of Hope is a nonsectarian home and school for children who would otherwise be abandoned. It is a home where young people receive loving care, education, food, shelter, medical attention and the practical foundation needed to develop into independent adults with a full appreciation of their Tibetan heritage. A vital component to our mission is our dedication to the sustainability of the Tibetan people, their culture and the balance of nature.”


Friendship with Cambodia. Friendship with Cambodia has been active since 1992, initially through collaboration between Bhavia Wagner and Valentina DuBasky. Bhavia and Valentina led a tour to Cambodia in 1994 and were UN observers during the national election in 1998. Since then they have given hundreds of talks, interviews and written articles about Cambodia. In 2002, Soul Survivors – Stories of Women and Children in Cambodia by Bhavia (author) and Valentina (photographer) was published. On September 27, 2003 Friendship with Cambodia was incorporated as a non-profit. Since then, Friendship has continued the good work begun by Bhavia and Valentina. We have helped landmine victims and poor women in Cambodia market their handicrafts in the US. We started a sponsorship program for children to attend school in Cambodia. And Friendship leads tours to Cambodia. Friendship with Cambodia was inspired by the charitable humanitarian work of Mother Teresa, Mata Amritanandamayi, Thich Nhat Hanh and Maha Ghosananda. We choose to focus on Cambodia because the need there is so great. Please join us in our effort to offer kindness. We are a 501(c)(3) organization and all donations are tax deductible.



Mercy Corps — an international organization that does incredible work. Their mission is to “Alleviate suffering, poverty and oppression by helping people build secure, productive and just communities.”







Medecins Sans Frontieres — Another amazing international group that does outstanding work, with a medical focus.







Foundation for Peace — This group facilitates short term volunteer projects for groups or individuals in Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Kenya. I joined them in Port au Prince in 2015 and was impressed by their operation. Here’s a recent note from them:

The coast of Haiti was the hardest hit by Hurricane Matthew, but people in other areas of Haiti are also desperate for help.
The Foundation for Peace is doing assessments in the small villages of Ganthier. Relief teams are being prepared to go and help with the clean-up, rebuilding and re-planting.


FFP staff digging out the mud and debris in a flooded home.





In 2019, the FFP Haiti and DR staff worked together with partner Water at Work MInistry. Kristi Hamner brought the emergency water systems to Haiti from the DR and Michel Valentin assembled his staff for the necessary training. A generator and fuel were bought with the funds you supplied. People received purified water, for good health and cholera prevention. The system will be deployed in various communities by our staff, including some that can only be reached on foot.







as donors or volunteers

Recently provided 500 Iraqi Yazidis in Northern Greece with decent food, a library and a women’s center; provided shipping containers of supplies to refugees in Lebanon, Lesvos & Serbia; funded refugee-run kitchens, provided boots, clothing, eyeglasses, & food for squats in Athens. Back in Arizona, in the U.S., their 368 volunteers have advocated and arranged apartments for 83 refugees. LHI also works with Utah-based Helping Hands for Relief and Development, sending goods to Jordan and Lebanon. LHI collects, sorts, & packs essential items into boxes; then HHRD ships and distributes. Also check out
  • Doctors, nurses, midwifes etc. are especially needed. See the Medics for Greece Facebook page.
  • Interpreters/Translators who speak Arabic, Dari, Greek and other languages can be helpful.
  • General help unpacking, food distribution, etc.
Operates in mainland and island refugee camps. Services include preparing & distributing thousands of meals daily, women’s centers, mother-child centers, kids’ activities, clothing collection and distribution.
This group runs a mammoth free laundry/recycling service for discarded refugees’ clothes and blankets.
This group runs two awesome schools (one primary, one secondary) on the island of Chios. They may be easier to reach through their Facebook page or through
Refuge, by Alexander Betts and Paul Collier, Inside Syria, by Reese Erlich; The Morning They Came For Us, by Janine Di Giovanni; The New Odyssey; The story of the twenty-first-century refugee crisis, by Patrick Kingsley. Online, a UNHCR Overview of the Syrian catastrophe: Are You Syrious daily briefings: ;, Nujeen: One Girl’s Incredible Journey from War-Torn Syria in a Wheelchair, by Nujeen Mustafa. Interesting Viewing: How to Defeat ISIS using an Unexpected Resource | Alia Braley | TEDxSalem  Skype tutoring with Arabic native speaking refugees in Europe: