More details - what we do:
Checking in and responding to growing needs:
Hearts & Homes has been touching base with ‘post-resettlement’ refugees who no longer have volunteer teams to turn to, as well as the many asylee families who have participated in the Helping Hands program. We are checking in, assessing needs in conjunction with Catholic Charities, and working with partners across the Westchester Refugee Initiative to meet those needs as they arise. This ranges from gift cards for groceries to support in applying for unemployment benefits. We have also expanded support to additional people in need identified by Catholic Charities and HIAS, who are ineligible for government support.
Providing information to local refugees via email and social media:
Links to reliable sources for coronavirus information. This includes links to Governor Cuomo’s page, the Westchester County Department of Health, and information from UNICEF on talking to your children about coronavirus - with a version in Dari, the national language of Afghanistan. It also included websites and hotline phone numbers for food distributions, mental health and domestic violence.
Links for ways to stay healthy and engaged. This has included online resources for adults learning English plus reading websites and apps for kids. It also included a wonderful video from the director of the World Health Organization with five tips for staying healthy, as well as links to online workouts recommended by both volunteers and refugees.
Connecting refugees virtually and socially-distanced:
We know that at a time like this, the importance of community cannot be underestimated. Through the Westchester Refugee Initiative (WRI), Hearts & Homes for Refugees supported the organization of a refugee women’s conversation group. In this time of social isolation, we thought it would be great if the women could meet up online! Together with our friends at ICNAW and Neighbors for Refugees, we helped interested women get set up on Zoom, and have been meeting weekly since then. WRI Ambassador Reshad Ahmadi has also organized both online and socially-distanced in-person meet-ups for refugee men.
Supporting a mask-making project:
Neighbors for Refugees has connected five local refugee women to www.masksforny.org, who in turn are part of the collective www.sewforny.org.
Hearts & Homes has promoted the project and secured a grant to help pay the refugees for their efforts.
Financially supporting SIV* refugees in Rochester:
Hundreds of refugees have been welcomed by our partner Keeping Our Promise in Rochester in recent years. Hearts & Homes for Refugees was already exploring ways to support our friends up north when COVID-19 exploded. Since then, the situation has become more dire, as refugees have been laid-off. Hearts & Homes provided rent and utilities support for three families. We convened WRI members, and ICNAW and Neighbors for Refugees have also sent funding, as did several individuals.