EMBARC: Ethnic Minorities of Burma Advocacy and Resource Center

EMBARC logo with logo "Connecting refugees in Iowa with resources for life"

Website: https://www.embarciowa.org/

Mission: EMBARC’s mission is striving to help refugees expand their world of possibilities through advocacy, education and community development throughout Iowa. As Iowa’s first refugee-led social service organization, EMBARC offers support and resources for refugees in need. These resources include a wide range of educational and healthcare programs, as well as access to housing, food, job opportunities, mentoring and more. It’s all about building stronger refugee communities, which in turn helps build a stronger Iowa.

Location: Des Moines and Waterloo (53 miles from Grinnell College)

Needs: If volunteers are unsure of which opportunity is best for them, reach out to volunteer@embarciowa.org to do an initial screening and discuss options for them based on their background and interests.

EMBARC is a large and varied organization. Students can get involved as RISE Americorps members who receive a living stipend and provide workready related services to the refugee community, as volunteers supporting programs or one-time events, or as an intern working in unique branches of the organization. Previous interns have included social work, workready, public health, grant writing, communications, and data analyst interns.

Use your time and skills to empower refugees across Iowa. Volunteers can serve in-person or remotely, for a one-time event or through repeated service. You can:

  • Tutor in English language or computer skills, or assist community members studying for program exams
  • Translate or interpret
  • Help complete food or medical assistance forms
  • Pick up or deliver donations
  • Mentor RISE AmeriCorps members or client families.
  • Along with those listed, we offer internship positions in accounting, development, human resources, information technology, legal, social work, and more.



  • One-time events: yes
  • Ongoing: yes
  • Groups possible? We also coordinate group volunteer activities. Ask about group volunteer opportunities by contacting volunteer@embarciowa.org.

When is service needed: The end of June into early July tends to be the wrap and restart months for most of EMBARCs funding so are very busy. Typically RISE members start around September or May, depending on their terms.

Number of hours: Flexible, as much or little as is possible for the volunteer


  • In-person: yes
  • Hybrid in-person/virtual possible: yes
  • Fully virtual possible: no


Equipment/logistics needed: Interns should have a computer, RISE members may be provided one. EMBARC volunteers, interns, or RISE members would either be placed in Des Moines or Waterloo, IA. Other RISE sites are available across the state through partner organizations(host sites). Please see https://www.refugeeriseiowa.org/ for additional information.


Training supplied: EMBARC would provide a cultural orientation and confidentiality training as the primary clients of the organization are refugees and interns/RISE members frequently handle sensitive information.  We provide orientation and training as well as support throughout your service.


How to apply: Apply via the EMBARC website:  https://www.embarciowa.org/volunteer

Contact: Kate Hayden 515-443-7283, volunteer@embarciowa.org


Operation information: The Ethnic Minorities of Burma Advocacy and Resource Center (EMBARC) was originally founded in 2012 to help new refugees from Burma successfully settle in Iowa. In 2016, our reach expanded to empower other newly arriving refugee groups through our RISE AmeriCorps program.  As Iowa’s first and only refugee-led service provider, our approach is different. EMBARC better understands not only the challenges, but also the dreams and potential of refugee families. We believe that in order to help a community, the individuals within must feel empowered to help themselves.  By serving as the collective voice of different ethnic groups, EMBARC strives to address shared issues and uplift all refugee communities. Our ultimate goal is to create opportunities for all refugees in Iowa by removing barriers and fostering equity and inclusion.  EMBARC is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization located in Des Moines, Iowa, with a satellite office in Waterloo, and programs statewide.


2309 Euclid Ave (Polk County River Place) Des Moines, IA 50310

650 W 5th Street, Floor 4 Waterloo, IA 50702

If you are with this organization and need to update your listing, please access our update form on this page: For Community Partners