Hearts & Homes Leads Efforts to Resettle Refugees
Volunteers in the two photos get apartments ready for new arrivals.
School supplies and welcome gifts are set up to greet the children.
As the U.S. government works to quickly move the remaining 11,000 Afghan evacuees off U.S. military bases and into communities across the country, Hearts & Homes for Refugees is redoubling its efforts to expand community sponsorship of newly arriving refugees in our region.
In August 2021, many of us watched on in dismay as Afghanistan fell to the Taliban. More than 76,000 refugees arrived at eight U.S. military bases. By the time they leave the bases to restart their lives in communities throughout the U.S., they are thoroughly vetted, vaccinated and processed.
Hearts & Homes Founder and President, Kathie O’Callaghan, reminds us, “These are our allies and friends who stood by the U.S. as the war raged in their country for twenty years. They need our help, a place to call home.”
O’Callaghan states that there is an urgent need for more volunteers to join together and create Community Sponsor groups to welcome these new neighbors to the Lower Hudson Valley.
Community Sponsor groups are made up of volunteers from community organizations, faith, student and civic groups who provide a strong network of support. They find and furnish homes, provide a warm welcome, connect new arrivals to employment, help families enroll children in school, learn English, navigate the medical system, orient them to the communities where they are resettling, and more.
“We are a welcome wagon made up of trained and passionate volunteers. We assist refugees by providing a soft landing in every possible way for better long-term outcomes,” says O’Callaghan.
In the last five months, Hearts & Homes has resettled seven cases in Westchester County and furnished apartments for 20 individuals in New York City, as well as supported other independent Community Sponsor groups with additional resettlement cases.
Hearts & Homes for Refugees was the first organization following the community sponsorship model to resettle a refugee family in Westchester County. Since then, Hearts & Homes has been leading the way, educating, engaging volunteers and donors across the Lower Hudson Valley, and partnering with U.S. Government Resettlement Agencies such as Catholic Charities, HIAS, IRC and Church World Service to resettle, assist and advocate for refugees. Hearts & Homes has provided Community Sponsorship support to nearly 200 refugees, and helped to launch new or assist more than a dozen Community Sponsor groups since 2016. In addition to resettling refugees, Hearts & Homes’ services range from ESOL tutoring to drives for winter coats, school backpacks and personal products. These distributions have served more than 500 refugees and asylees each year in the tri-state area.
Founding Board Member, Donna Shirreffs said, “Not only did Kathie envision that Hearts & Homes would resettle refugees, but her goal was also to build a longer welcoming table by engaging volunteers and groups across faith, civic and youth communities.”
According to Program Director, Amy Robertson, Hearts & Homes is recruiting, training and onboarding new volunteers as quickly as possible. “We are committed to responsibly resettling as many families as we can trains and provide volunteer teams for, and we welcome the opportunity to help other community sponsorship groups get started.”
In the pipeline are five new cases for which Hearts & Homes is coordinating and onboarding new teams and volunteers.
Kelly Agnew-Barajas, the Director of Refugee Resettlement at Catholic Charities, New York, says that the key to successfully resettling our new neighbors depends on these public-private partnerships. “As a resettlement agency, we rely on community sponsors. They are organized and passionate about raising the funds, finding and furnishing housing, and helping families navigate every aspect in the first year of rebuilding their new lives.” Agnew-Barajas adds, “Community support is more important than ever in light of the current crisis and the fact that refugees from other countries are starting to arrive after a pause in the resettlement program.”
Hearts & Homes is committed to providing guidance, resources and fundraising assistance to those who raise their hands and say ‘How can I help?’
Learn how you can play a vital role as Community Sponsors in supporting the resettlement of our new neighbors.
About Hearts & Homes for Refugees
Hearts & Homes for Refugees is a nonprofit community grassroots organization that works with the U.S. Department of State-designated agencies to resettle refugees and to build more welcoming communities. We inspire, educate and equip others to welcome, assist and advocate for refugees. Our growing network of neighbors, community organizations, faith, student and civic groups create safe and inclusive communities, empowering our refugee neighbors to rebuild their lives with hope and dignity.