NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — A new program welcoming refugees into the country is underway and the U.S. State Department has tapped a New Haven agency to be a leader. 

Under the Integrated Refugee and Immigration Services (IRIS) in New Haven, 70 groups of volunteers across the state have become community sponsor groups for refugees. Barbara Davis is a volunteer with the Danbury Area Refugee Assistance. 

“It was something where you have an immediate effect on someone else’s life,” she said. 

Community sponsor groups welcome refugees with open arms and help them with everything they need to be successful in the U.S., like healthcare, employment and school.

“And you watch them on that journey, as they figure out to navigate American life and you partner with them on that journey,” Davis said. “Watching them get jobs, watching their kids come home from school happy.” 

The Danbury group started in 2016 and has helped three families resettle. Across the state, more than 600 refugees have started new lives with the help of IRIS and a co-sponsor group.

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The Biden administration launched a federal program called Welcome Corps that will use this model to help refugees nationwide. 

Typically, a refugee family needs the help of an agency to resettle in the U.S. under Welcome Corps, anyone, anywhere can help a family resettle.

“This is going to dramatically increase the public’s understanding of a refugees, what is a refugee, what is the crisis they have been through, what was it like living at a refugee camp,” said Chris George, the executive director of IRIS. “We are now opening up and empowering thousands of groups all around the country that will be welcoming refugees.” 

Groups of five or more can apply to privately sponsor refugees. 

IRIS is one of the five organizations doing the training for volunteers in other states. Training includes teaching groups how to handle cross-cultural issues and how to help a family become self-sufficient.