Refugee Health Initiative

Refugee Health Initiative

Thank you for your interest in the Refugee Health Initiative (RHI).  Founded in 2009 by a small group of UNC medical students and expanded by 2010-2011 Albert Schweitzer Fellow Dan White, RHI serves the health and wellness needs of the refugee population in the Research Triangle area.  Upon resettlement to the United States, refugees may face financial, linguistic and cultural barriers to accessing quality healthcare.   In order to address some of these difficulties, we have partnered with a local refugee resettlement agency (Church World Service, in Durham) and provide a variety of services to recently resettled refugees in the area.  In addition to direct service, we also strive to be advocates for the refugee community and to educate students and health professionals about the needs of this population.

  • Home Visit Program: The home visit program is our largest and most involved program.  This program partners health professional students (medical, public health, social work, etc.) with families shortly after arrival.  Volunteers complete a series of home visits to discuss a variety of healthcare-related topics with our partner families.  In addition to these home visits, volunteers also assist the family in identifying and developing a relationship with a medical home and, in many cases, will accompany the family to several of their initial medical and health-related appointments.
  • Health Fairs: We have partnered with SHAC-Outreach’s Health Fair Program to organize periodic health fairs and health screenings at refugee community events. 
  • Community Education: We have organized several health-related seminars for school groups and refugee community groups.  We have also organized occasional educational lunch meetings for medical students on topics related to refugee health.

In the spring of 2011 we officially partnered with SHAC to become an ongoing program of SHAC- Outreach.

Links for Current Volunteers

Refugee Health Home Visit Guide:
USCRI Healthy Living Toolkit:
Church World Service (Durham Office):

Interested in Becoming a Volunteer?

If you are interested in volunteering, we generally recruit volunteers for the home visit program at the beginning of the Fall and Spring semesters.  All volunteers must attend one of our mandatory orientations (held in both the Fall and the Spring) or make special arrangements with us.

The fall training sessions will be held on Tuesday September 4th at 7:30 pm and Monday September 10th at 7:30 pm. Both sessions will be in room 30 in Bondurant Hall.

For more information, or if you would like to be added to the RHI listserv, please email Malika Rakhmankulova at