Promising Practices Program

Administering Organization

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)

Program Name

The Parishes Organized to Welcome Refugees (POWR) Program

Program Objectives and Unique Needs Addressed

MRS launched POWR in the midst of the great recession, seeking to strengthen the ability of local churches to recruit and utilize volunteers to mentor and provide other needed support to newly-arrived refugees. With job growth low and unemployment high as a result of recession, the program placed a special focus on building parish partnerships that could help refugees build their social capital and networks for finding jobs. 

Program Description

In the midst of the economic downturn, in 2010 the USCCB/MRS relaunched the Parishes Organized to Welcome Refugees (POWR) Program, offering small grant support to 60 dioceses. This grant money is now being used to augment services in the following areas: 

  • Strengthening parish and community support for refugees
  • Increasing donations to fund additional refugee services
  • Volunteers help with jobs, ESL, transportation & housing
  • Organizing special refugee events and outreach activities

Small seed grants continue to be provided to local parishes through the program for the development of volunteer-led efforts to meet a range of resettlement needs, including transportation, English language learning, employment mentoring and more generally navigating U.S. systems. The initiative has spurred the development of innovative projects and social enterprises. With POWR support, Catholic Charities of Louisville, for example, utilized funds to create an in-house woodworking shop, where it can manufacture furniture items at low cost and high quality. To pick another example of this program's empowering impact, Catholic Charities of Jacksonville produced a documentary film to intensify its volunteer recruitment efforts. Testimonials underscore the social impact of volunteerism on resettlement. "We are thrilled with POWR's positive contributions," reports one program manager. "It has allowed us to be more visible, to recruit more volunteers and provide better services to refugees in need." 

Resource Materials Used in Program

Chmura Economics & Analytics: The Economic Impact of Refugees in the Cleveland Area, 2017. 

Kristin Keller: Refugee Resettlement in Oakland: Improving the Volunteer-Client Encounter, 2013. 

Rita Thomson, Experiences of Volunteers in Refugee Resettlement, 2014. - The POWR Post Newsletter (Parishes Organized to Welcome Refugees Program e-Newsletter). MRS, 2010-18. 

The New Economy: From Struggle to Resilience: The Economic Impact of Refugees in America, 2017 

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: Welcoming the Stranger Among Us: Unity in Diversity, 2000. 

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, The Parish Refugee Resettlement Ministry: A Vision for Welcoming Newcomers, 2017. Online at http://tinyurl.com/y75k438w 

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, POWR from A to Z, 2017. Online at http://tinyurl.com/ydypucux

Groups Served by Program

  • Refugees 
  • Asylees 
  • Migrants 
  • Victims of Trafficking 
  • Special Immigrants

Program Funding

In total, the USCCB/MRS has invested $3 million in the POWR program since its inception in 2010. The POWR program has been successful at diversifying funding sources. While the lion share of its funding (at 74%) comes from the unrestricted USCCB/MRS funds, the share of grants and donations has increased to a total of $643,000. The POWR program's intended multiplier effect – currently at 3.5 (dollars raised):1 (dollars invested), underscores the significance of this program in terms of capacity development, mobilization of volunteers and leveraging of new resources for improved services and increased visibility.  

Program Staffing and Required Staff Training

The POWR program places a strong emphasis on training and sharing of promising practices. The USCCB/Migration and Refugee Services launched an electronic discussion list and monthly e-newsletter, The POWR Post, to document the successes of the program. This publication helps program participants (and other MRS affiliates) learn from one another, and thereby leverage new funding sources and improve upon their own programs. The electronic publication is accompanied by a series of workshops related to resource development and program oversight. Additionally, POWR program coordinators are convened in the context of annual conferences.  

Program Evaluation

POWR program participants are required to submit Bi-Monthly POWR Progress Reports. This online survey is designed to track qualitative and quantitative program outcomes. Additionally, trained USCCB/MRS headquarters staff provide regular updates and feedback, based on feedback received during monitoring visits. 

Program Outcomes

Program Impact/Outcomes: 

  • Number of Volunteers Recruited: 16,000 
  • Number of parishes and other groups (faith-based, schools, college & nonprofit groups) recruited for resettlement work: 1,300 
  • Average volunteer contribution (in hours): 21 
  • Cash- and In-Kind (in million $): 10.43 million 
  • USCCB/MRS Expense (in million $): 2.98 million

Additional Comments

USCCB/Migration and Refugee Services launched an electronic discussion list and monthly e-newsletter, The POWR Post, to document the successes of the program. This publication helps program participants learn from one another, and thereby leverage new funding sources and improve upon their own programs. Presentations, webinar recordings and other materials are available on the USCCB's online resource library. The electronic publication is accompanied by a series of workshops ("POWR panels") related to the sharing of promising practices. 

60 diocesan programs (nationwide)

Program Contact

Richard Hogan
(202) 541-3345
rhogan@usccb.org
POWR Webpage


Program Dates

The POWR program began in 2010 and is still operating as of March 2018.