The power of a faith community: How UUFR is coming together to build bunk beds for Afghan refugees

Immigrant and Refugee Justice Ministry Team

Bill Devereux and crew building bunk beds on a hot day

When Afghanistan fell to the Taliban, many of us watched in horror, wishing there was something we could do to help people desperately fleeing their own country. These are the times when it’s good to be part of a faith community. Thanks to UUFR’s Immigrant and Refugee Justice Ministry Team, there is something you can do.

The team has a longtime relationship with Wake County’s refugee resettlement agencies. UUFR volunteers regularly work together with groups and individuals across Wake County to furnish apartments and collect needed supplies for newly arrived refugees.

As it became clear that Afghan refugees would need shelter in the United States, UUFR’s team received a request from the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants: Can you build bunk beds? These beds are key to fitting large families into small, affordable apartments.

Ministry team member Bill Devereux was not a carpenter and had never built a bunk bed before, but he said yes. And for the last two months, his full-time job has been bringing together a team of volunteers from across Wake County to build bunk beds. Asked how much time he’s spent on the project, Bill said, “A lot more than I planned.”

Installing a bunk bed in the sanctuary

Bill negotiated with local stores like Capital City Lumber, Lowes and Home Depot to donate the wood. Then he put out the call to the ministry team’s email list and pulled together a group of volunteers from UUFR and beyond. One person had a woodworking shop and could cut lumber. Others had trucks and could haul the wood. Others offered garage space to store it, or buckets of stain to finish it.

One crew of volunteers spent hours in a driveway building and staining a bunk bed in hundred-degree heat. After that, they started searching for an indoor space to work. One volunteer sent the request out to her neighborhood and hit paydirt. Raleigh Little Theatre offered UUFR their stage to build the bunk beds on, and introduced them to volunteers with experience building sets.

The team has so far built eight bunk beds and is now working to build eight more, all of which will be ready for use whenever new refugees arrive in the Triangle. There is still plenty more work to be done, including building, staining and hauling.

If you want to help refugees, here’s how to get involved:

  1. To help with bunk bed building, contact Bill Devereux at [email protected] to get on his email list. He sends regular volunteer requests to this list. All are welcome to help, but those with pickup trucks and carpentry skills or equipment are especially encouraged to join the effort.
  2. Donate bedding such as comforters, pillows, sheets, and mattress pads. Drop them off Friday at the UUFR Action Lot (10:30-noon in the back parking lot) or at Sunday’s service (put them on the bunk bed at the front of the sanctuary).
  3. Join the Immigrant and Refugee Justice Ministry Team’s email list to get updates about all the projects the team is working on. Contact Amy Blackwell at [email protected].