Welcoming Refugees:
Nashville’s Role in Supporting New Neighbors

News reports of Afghan refugees being resettled in the United States have become a daily headline. Nashville has resources that have been in place for decades to greet our new neighbors. This panel is filled with experienced women who are part of Nashville’s support system for refugees. They will share the history and experience of how their organizations help refugees find friendship, physical and mental healthcare, education, and skills to create independence and economic self-sufficiency.

Click Here For Panelist Bios

The FORUM 2021 Resource Library

Terminology Review

Migrants, Asylum seekers, Refugees, Immigrants

“What’s the Difference?”


Someone who has been forced to flee his or her home because of war, violence or persecution, often without warning.  They are unable to return home unless and until conditions in their native lands are safe for them again.

An official entity such as a government or the United Nations Refugee Agency determines whether a person seeking international protection meets the definition of a refugee, based on well-founded fear.

Those who obtain refugee status are given protections under international laws and conventions and lifesaving support from aid agencies, including the International Rescue Committee.  Refugees in the U.S. also have the opportunity to become lawful permanent residents and eventually citizens.

Asylum Seeker

Must apply for protection in the country of destination-meaning they must arrive at or cross a board in order to apply.  Then, they must be able to prove to authorities there that they meet the criteria to be covered by refugee protections.  Not every asylum seeker will be recognized as a refugee.

Those arriving at U.S. boarders seeking asylum from murder, kidnapping, violence against women and forced recruitment by gangs, are often depicted as “illegal immigrants,” but in reality, crossing an international border for asylum is not illegal and an asylum seeker’s case must be heard, according to U.S. and international law.


Someone who makes a conscious decision to leave his or her home and move to a foreign country with the intention of settling there.  Immigrants often go through a lengthy vetting process to immigrate to a new country.  Many become lawful permanent residents and eventually citizens.


Someone who is moving from place to place (within his or her country or across borders), usually for economic reasons such as seasonal work.  Similar to immigrants, they were not forced to leave their native countries because of persecution or violence, but rather are seeking better opportunities.

Sanctuary Cities/”Safe Cities”

Areas committed to ensure due process is followed regardless of someone’s immigration status. Being an undocumented immigrant is not a crime, it is a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Tennessee Office for Refugees

A department of Catholic Charities designated and funded by the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to administer the state refugee resettlement program.

Chatholic Charities is Admin office and recipient of Federal Refugee Services funding

Subcontract with direct services:

  • NICE
  • Siloam Health
  • Tennessee Language Center
  • Medical Clinics in Chattanooga, Memphis, Knoxville

Data Resources

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is a global organization dedicated to saving lives, protecting rights and building a better future for refugees, forcibly displaced communities and stateless people.  According to UNHCR data, by 2020, more than 82 Million people worldwide were forcefully displaced, as a result of persecution, conflict, violence, and human rights violations (Click this LINK, to view data graphs detailing refugee-receiving countries)



About The Women’s Fund Forum

The Women’s Fund always considered opportunities to engage and educate the community about issues affecting women and girls. It was an opportunity for the Board to share the insights they were learning through relationships they were forming, and the information they were introduced to through the network of foundations and funds with a shared mission of supporting women and girls that were being established across the country.

Nearly 20 years ago, the first educational effort was to bring attention to the issue of senior women who survived their husbands and were now left with understanding their financial circumstances, often for the first time. For this effort, The Women’s Fund partnered with the Council on Aging.

Fast forward past a sampling of other educational events and a changing community over a decade and The Women’s Fund Forum, as it is known today, was born in 2012. The featured topic would have never been imagined 25 years ago: Human Trafficking in Tennessee.

After bringing attention to human trafficking in our state, The Women’s Fund selected the issue of hunger and food insecurity in our Middle Tennessee community and shined light on how women and their children are disproportionately impacted through the Forum titled Hunger Happens Here.

As the opioid epidemic began to impact our state and our country, the 2017 and 2018 Forum focus was When Addiction Comes Home and Stories from the Opioid Crisis with former Women’s Fund board members as panelist. One as an expert in the field and another sharing her personal story of losing a son to addiction.

The #MeToo movement and countless national stories on sexual assault bring the conversations home when Middle Tennessee women ask, what is the reality of sexual assault in our community? The Women’s Fund gathered experts in 2019 and 2020 to discuss the local environment and resources to support those impacted by sexual assault.

The Women's Fund Forum 2020 Resource Library