Biden Administration’s Launch of Private Refugee Sponsorship Program Strongly Supported by Hearts & Homes for Refugees

Kathie O’Callaghan

Hearts & Homes for Refugees (HHR) announces its support for Welcome Corps, a private refugee sponsorship program launched by the State Department that will allow any American citizen to directly assist and welcome refugees to their communities.


Welcome Corps is a groundbreaking government program built upon a nationwide grassroots movement led by community-based organizations like Hearts & Homes for Refugees. The focus of this movement is to empower volunteers to become a part of the local solution to the global refugee crisis.


“The Welcome Corps program represents a historic shift in the paradigm of refugee resettlement in this country,” says HHR Founder Kathie O’Callaghan. “It is gratifying and exhilarating to know that this country has fully embraced a refugee resettlement program that recognizes the power of private citizens as volunteers in welcoming refugees.”


Modeled after the Canadian private refugee resettlement system in place since 1979, Welcome Corps will empower groups of at least five American adults, called sponsor circles, to provide financial assistance and holistic services to refugees. These volunteers, also known as sponsors, commit to providing assistance with housing, employment, personal finances, navigating schools and medical systems, community and cultural orientation, and English language learning.


O’Callaghan’s support of holistic resettlement by private citizens is based on her experience as the founder of HHR. “Under this model, refugees receive far more support and for longer periods of time, promising refugees a more sustainable and realistic chance for successful integration and independence in the U.S,” says O’Callaghan.


With a goal of mobilizing 10,000 Americans to welcome refugees through private sponsorship in 2023, the State Department has signaled it will rely heavily on the experience and expertise of national, regional and local non-profit resettlement organizations.


Welcome Corps is designed and spearheaded by recently established national organizations like Community Sponsorship Hub and Welcome.US, along with IRIS, a long time leader and early promoter of volunteer supported refugee resettlement.


“What is promising about the Welcome Corps program is that it reflects experiences and best practices of community groups and volunteers that have been cultivating and engaging with private citizens for years,” explains O’Callaghan. “Welcome Corps is the culmination of a nationwide trend, including our own seven years of expanding the role of private citizens in welcoming refugees”


Since 2016, Hearts & Homes for Refugees has worked closely with national resettlement agencies to recruit, train and lead sponsor groups in the resettlement of hundreds of refugees from countries across the globe. Hearts & Homes will utilize its ever expanding partnership network of 40+ community and faith groups, 300 active volunteers and over 2000 additional supporters and continue to bring more welcomers to the table.


Just this past week, HHR was announced as one of five recipients of a $350,000 award from Welcome.US to support sponsorship of Ukrainian newcomers. With this grant, Hearts & Homes and four other regional immigrant and refugee leader organizations are creating a Sponsor Hub where sponsors can receive guidance on social services, assist on housing and employment, and pro bono legal advice.


In addition to this new consortium, Hearts & Homes is currently working on the formation of another network that will bring together local citizen-run refugee groups throughout the region to create a more robust and well-connected welcoming table.


The launch of Welcome Corps validates and empowers existing volunteer-driven community groups. “Hearts & Homes for Refugees will continue in its mission to inspire, educate and equip our fellow citizens to join the welcoming table,” says O’Callaghan.


To learn more about the Welcome Corps program, visit For additional information on community sponsorship, visit