Polk County Decategorization

Refugee Resources


Refugee Resource

DMACC - Scholarships for Refugee students

DMACC has multiple options for scholarships for refugee students.  The Eddy Refugee Scholarships (there are 2 available) are available for students continuing with their post-secondary education.  More information can be found here.

Raising Teens in a New County: A Guide for the Whole Family was created for parents and teens who are new to the U.S., and for the service providers working with them.  
This guide covers topics that often come up in families raising teenagers in the United States such as discipline, dating, driving, and cultural identity. It aims to remind newcomers that every parent worries for their children and most teens face these challenges.  

  • At this time, the guide is only available online, but we hope to have hard copies available for order soon. Also, stay tuned for new translations

LSI Refugee Community Services: Education Programs (Academic Year 2018 - 2019)

LSI, in partnership with JFON, will be holding a new citizenship course starting in January.  They are hosting multiple informational sessions coming up in December and January, or, more information can be requested here.

Please find LSI’s ESL schedule for Fall Session #2 here. Start Oct 29th End Dec 20th

  • Class held at LSI: Welcome English, Beginning English, Intermediate English, Weekend English, Citizenship
  • Class held at satellite locations: U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, Capitol Hill Lutheran Church, Goodwill of Central Iowa, EMBARC at Vineyard Church, EMBARC at Zion Lutheran Church, EMBARC at Creekside Church

For More Information:

Contact Maggie Cave at (515)271-7418 or maggie.cave@lsiowa.org

Contact LSI Refugee Education Supervisor:

John Windheuser (515) 271-7322 or john.windheuser@lsiowa.org


Visit us at

3200 University Ave., Des Moines, 50311 to register for classes Mondays and Wednesdays 12-2, or Tuesdays and Thursdays 10-12. Or call (515)271-7418 and leave a message for an appointment

LSI Individual Development Account (IDA) Program

Program Goals:

  • Help you save for a car*, home, business, or education.
  • Help you to learn about:
  • money in the United States;
  • practicing good savings habits and,
  • how banks and credit unions can help you.

*Program allows for:

First vehicle purchase, or;
second vehicle purchase, but ONLY if multiple adults in the family are working or attending post-secondary education/vocational training.

You can participate in this program if you:

  • arrived in the US with refugee status
  • have been in the US for less than 5 years (if saving for a car, less than 3 years)
  • have income (a job)
  • are at or below 200% poverty

To sign up for this program, you will need:

  • A valid ID
  • I-94 Form or Green Card
  • Proof of income ( one month of pay stubs for every working member of your family)

Contact Information: Benjamin Spick, LSI, Benjamin.Spick@lsiowa.org

The Immigrant Visa Process

Are you aware of the immigrant visa process? Please check out here!.


Please see Jody Mashek’s (Co-chair of the legal work group of the Refugee Alliance of Central Iowa) link to recently updated version of the list of attorneys and non-profit organizations providing immigration legal services here.

If you have questions about the list, please email Jody Mashek (JMashek@afsc.org).

High-quality, free, confidential  Legal Service Program

The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, Des Moines Field Office (USCRI - Des Moines) is a leading expert in providing refugee resettlement services and wraparound support to local refugees and immigrants. As part of its holistic service model, the Legal Services Program offers high-quality, affordable legal services, including consultations, direct and consultations will be provided free of charge to qualitying individuals and language services are available. Download a flyer here.

11 Things You Should Know About Refugees in Iowa

  • Iowa has a long history of welcoming refugees.
  • Refugees are coming from all over the world.
  • It takes a long time to get to Iowa.
  • Refugees are just like you.
  • Refugees want to assimilate into American culture.
  • Read more

Enrolling Refugee Children in U.S. Schools

This webinar focuses on the challenges of enrolling children into the local public school system and the current protections in place at the federal level such as Plyler v. Doe and the McKinney-Vento Act. Additional recommendations are discussed.  Download "Enrolling Refugee Children in U.S. Schools" presentation material here and/or download an audio recording here.


Margaret MacDonnell, BRYCS Consultant
Jaime Duckett, LCSW-C, Children's Services Specialist, USCCB/MRS
Kate Walker, Refugee Parenting Services Coordinator, Catholic Charities of Atlanta

Check out a Toolkit for Teachers and School Personnel here.

Program for Immigrant and Refugee Youth by Art Force Iowa

  • 13-19 years old
  • Refugee, Immigrant
  • Interst in, or would benefit from involvement in the arts
  • Survivor of a crime (broad definition, please contact us if you need clarification.)

The program offers a combination of small group arts workshops (including, but not limited to visual art, creative writing, piano, voice, guitar, songwriting, theater, dance, etc) and a weekly large group workshop that focusses on arts-integrated life skills learning.  In addition to this, youth benefit from one-on-one mentorship, advocacy, and referrals to other supportive services.There are two pathways through which a youth can enroll in the program:

  • A school or agency can make a referral to us using the attached referral form.  We will contact the parents and discuss the program with them.
  • A parent can be given the information and put directly in contact with us.

We are also able to provide if needed:

  • Transportation to and from workshop within a 5 mile radius of 600 Holcomb (adjacent to North High School).
  • Interpreters to facilitate enrollment progress as well as programs
  • Other forms of special assistance (We are working on developing a food pantry and clothing closet)

Please check out the attached documents and referral form, and send your referrals and or questions to DSM Heroes Program Manager Christine Her or call and talk to her 515 777 3182.

Bridging Refugee Youth & Children's Services

>Parenting Handbooks:

>BRYCS interactive Online Training Modules are available! Click here to learn more.

Current courses include:

  • Discrimination & Bullying of Refugee Youth
  • Preventing Child Maltreatment in ORR/DCS-Funded Care Provider Programs
  • Raising Children in a New Country (English & Somali)
  • Raising Young Children in a New Country: Supporting Early Learning and Healthy Development (English & Nepali)
  • Refugee and Immigrant Family and Community Engagement in the Schools
  • Refugee 101: With a Special Look at Child-Specific Issues

New Online Resource for Supporting Refugee Children and Families


Travel Trainer Program for the refugee clients

Do you work with a population of refugees who live in the same apartment complex who would like to receive training for riding DART? This will be different than the usual DART trainings as it will come directly to where the families are living.

VNS of Iowa is getting a pilot together to see if bringing a travel trainer and interpreter to an apartment complex to train a small group of 10 families is effective.

The program would be one month long and would send a trainer and interpreter to the same complex each week. They would ride together from the closest bus stop to DART to get the Refugee Bus Pass, Primary Health Care, Broadlawns and Polk County River Place over the course of 4 weeks.

Preferably, VNS of Iowa would like to find a group of families who speak the same language allowing for one interpreter. If you have ideas for an apartment complex and population in need, please contact Lesleyann Christensen (MCH Outeach Manager, VNS of Iowa) at LesleyannC@vnsia.org or call 515-557-9036 (office) ASAP.


EMBARC (Ethnic Minorities of Burma Advocacy & Resource Center)

Education, advocacy & community development focusing on refugees from Burma. Offers youth tutoring sessions, Adult ESL classes, empowerment and advocacy initiatives, and provides connections to community resources for linguistic or cultural integration. Resources include Health Guide and Legal Guide in English, Lao, Vietnamese, Burmese, Karen, Khmer, and Hmong translations. If you would like more information call 515-650-3339 or visit their website here

Nisaa African Women's Project

Nisaa is a non-profit that aims to end domestic violence and sexual assault in African immigrant and refugee communities by promoting social, economic, political self-determination of all women. If you are in Des Moines, call 515-288-0881. if you are in Iowa City, call 319-333-2453.

or visit their website here

American Friends Service Committee

Immigrant & refugee outreach & support, legal assistance. For more information call          515-274-4851 or visit their website here and for a list of immigration attorneys in our area, click here


ArtForce Iowa DSM Heroes Program

DSM HEROES is a supportive arts-based community for immigrant, refugee and first-generation American youth who have experienced violence and trauma.

Artist Mentors create friendly opportunities for arts experimentation and learning in a multi-lingual atmosphere. Weekly workshops based on young people’s individual interests and informal field trips help them adjust to a new culture and build resiliency.

DSM Heroes is designed for youth who fit a specific profile.  Participants should:

Be a refugee/immigrant

Live in Polk County

Show an interest in the arts

Be between 12 and 19 years old

Receive free or reduced priced lunches

Victim of crime including, but not limited to hate crimes, sexual abuse, child abuse, trafficking. (We consider their refugee status enough evidence of crime and do not need to pry further.)

Be available to participate in at least 1 to 2 workshops per week.