Refugee Transitions began as the Refugee Women’s Program in 1982 in response to the large influx of Southeast Asian refugees into low-income areas of San Francisco such as the Tenderloin, and the alarming number of female refugees home-bound by fear, lack of familiarity with the city and its services, and childcare responsibilities. Volunteer tutors taught these women the English language and civics skills they needed while in the comfort and safety of their students’ own homes – what we call "home-based tutoring".
Today, we are the only organization in the San Francisco Bay Area offering home-based tutoring and mentoring to refugees and low-income immigrants. We now serve clients of all genders and ages, and we have expanded our services to provide citizenship exam preparation, leadership training, small group classes, after-school tutoring, summer camps for refugee youth, and family support. Our clients come from all over the world, including the following countries: Afghanistan, Bosnia, Burma, Cambodia, China, El Salvador, Eritrea, Guatemala, Iraq, Jordan, Laos, Liberia, Mexico, Pakistan, the former Soviet Union, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Tibet, Vietnam, and Yemen.
Since our incorporation as an independent agency in 1990, we have served thousands of clients and have made a significant contribution to their quality of life. Past clients have gone on to leave public aid, attain better jobs, pass the U.S. citizenship exam, and pursue advanced study at local colleges. In 1999, we expanded our services into the Lower San Antonio neighborhood in Oakland to serve the Bosnian and Southeast Asian refugee communities, as well as the Latino immigrant population. Most recently, due to the increased resettlement of refugees in Santa Clara County, we opened an office in the South Bay and have been working with families there since 2008.
We are proud to have earned both local and national recognition for the excellence, innovation, and effectiveness of our programs. In 1994, we were awarded the National Award for Excellence in English (English-Speaking Union, New York). The San Francisco Chronicle and the Volunteer Center of San Francisco called our home-based programs “unusual and exceptional.” Refugee Transitions volunteers have been featured on the cable television program Everybody’s Angels, which honors outstanding volunteers in the Bay Area. In 2004, the Oakland Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, and Argus newspapers featured stories about our Bridge 2-Success Refugee Youth Development Program. In 2009, San Francisco's KRON4 featured a story on Richard Bakheit, a Refugee Transitions student from Sudan who overcame great hurdles to graduate high school and move on to college.