SPOKANE, Wash. - Refugee Connections Spokane is a program that helps new and former refugees settle into the community. The Refugees' Harvest Project is one of the volunteer activities that locals can take part in.
"Refugees who come from farming cultures want to get out and do what they know how to do so well," Executive Director of Refugee Connections Spokane said.
It started back in 2011 by Nou Vang, a local refugee at the time. She watched fruit just falling on the ground and rotting. Vang knew there was a need for fresh produce within the local refugee community.
Instead of letting it go to waste, she thought she could pick the unwanted fruit while simultaneously cleaning Spokane yards.
Today, the project is growing rapidly. Volunteers collect thousands of pounds of produce to distribute for free in the East Central Neighborhood.
"There are people who can't afford to buy fresh produce or the store is too far to get to," Hale said.
KXLY4 went out with a group of Karen refugees on Tuesday. They are from the the southeastern part of Burma. We've been asked to not use their names for their safety. One woman we spoke to left Burma citing growing problems in the region.
"Like civil war," She said. "We had a lot of kind of problems like government and the Karen."
She took refuge in Thailand for five years before making her way to America in 2008. Both she and her father reside in Spokane and are happy to call it "home."
"We feel like we are safe with our family and our future," She said. "So we want to say 'thank you' and give that to Spokane."
A thank you that's mutual among the group of refugees.
"They're so happy to have a safe place to be and this is a way that they can do that," Hale said.
They're always looking for more yards to pick fruit from. Those residents interested can even use it as a tax write off.