How We Started
FIRM is a faith-based non-profit that serves the needs of over 10,000 refugees in the Fresno area of the California San Joaquin Valley, primarily refugees of Southeast Asian, Slavic, and African origin. In 2017, we served refugees from 22 different countries. We serve them through holistic neighborhood/youth outreach and enrichment programs, citizenship, advocacy, community gardens, health navigation and policy work, culturally appropriate community organizing, an after-school program and much more.
FIRM was incorporated in January 1994 as a partnership between refugee-led congregations and mainstream white and Western congregations to meet the concrete needs of the many refugee families who had recently relocated to Fresno County. We trace our history back to many years of prior work in refugee resettlement and volunteer services through multiple denominations and in partnership with Church World Service.
Most members of FIRM’s approximately 20 staff entered the U.S. with refugee status, or have had significant international work and living experiences. Today, as one of the country’s uniquely interdenominational faith-based refugee ministry teams, FIRM provides cross-cultural resources, consultations and referrals for refugees. FIRM also provides presentations to promote understanding about and between the Southeast Asian, Slavic, Hispanic, and other refugee cultures in the United States.
Who We Serve
FIRM serves refugee families of all cultures and religious traditions, and participation in religious services or adherence to a particular religious belief is not required to receive services. FIRM’s motivation and mission is to “share Christ’s love by building communities of hope with New Americans.” Whenever interest is present, FIRM staff assist refugees in linking with one of our city’s refugee community or mainstream congregations.
FIRM’s deep commitment to excellence in service has led it to receive numerous awards such as “Outstanding Performance in Community Economic Development and Revitalization”; “Outstanding Service and Leadership in the Community”; the “Martin Luther King Community Service Award” from the City of Fresno; the “Vocational Excellence Award” from the Fresno Rotary Club; and numerous other humanitarian and service commendations from state and national legislators for superior performance in public service.
How We Are Supported
As a holistic service organization, FIRM is well trusted among refugee community members, and refugee community members make up more than one-half of FIRM’s board. FIRM’s work is supported by funds from individuals, churches, service clubs and grant sources such as First 5 Fresno County, The California Endowment, the Fresno County Department of Behavioral Health and much more. In 2019, FIRM’s budget was approximately $1,400,000.