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Refugee Resettlement Community Sponsorship

SO YOU WANT TO HELP RESETTLE REFUGEES?  

The community sponsorship model is a public/private partnership between faith and civic communities and U.S. resettlement agencies that effectively extends support for refugees to increase their chances of successfully integrating and achieving independence.

During this time of fierce debate about immigration policy, refugee bans and subsequent legal action, the US resettlement program is being dismantled and the U.S. continues to cut refugee admissions to historical lows.

Although the opportunities for welcoming refugees through co-sponsorship are very few, it is important that there are community sponsorship groups committed to the training and resettlement support. In addition, we have short-term refugee support opportunities through our Helping Hands program.  TO LEARN MORE ABOUT HELPING HANDS, PLEASE CONTACT helping@heartsandhomesforrefugees.org.

How does community sponsorship work?

There are nine resettlement agencies in the United States that are responsible for refugees who have been approved for resettlement. Typically, these agencies resettle refugees directly, without the support of volunteer organizations.  There are standard procedures that they follow to help refugees from the time they arrive. Housing and other critical support are provided for 90 days; families are expected to continue on the path toward independence on their own, with little additional support. 
When a group of volunteers partners with a resettlement agency, they are known as Community Sponsors or Hosts and are able to provide additional time and resources to each family.  This makes a meaningful difference and offers better chances for successful acculturation and independence.  This public-private partnership model is growing in popularity throughout the country and, if shared and adopted, could result in a paradigm shift in the way we welcome and support refugees. 
The Community Sponsorship model has built-in benefits:
  • Refugees receive far more support and for longer periods of time, promising more sustainable and realistic chances for successful integration and independence.
  • Resettlement Agencies invest in their co-sponsors' training and orientation, giving them valuable resources and tools for working with families. 
  • Mutual benefits are realized by the agencies and volunteers; the volunteers are greatly moved having a hands-on role in making a new life for a refugee family. Many volunteers experience this as "the magic of refugees."

Organizing a Team

Volunteers, communities, faith and interfaith groups are key to successful community sponsorship. In the community sponsorship model, volunteers are grouped according to refugee needs.  From a roof over their heads to the cultural, practical and emotional needs of refugees, community sponsors provide the person-to-person support that is so valuable in the early days, weeks, months of a family's journey to independence. The community sponsorship model names 15 committees dedicated to refugee needs and services. 

Family Support Committees

  1. FURNITURE, CLOTHING & HOUSEHOLD ITEMS - This committee outfits the apartment/home with furniture, kitchenware, and all other room items. They get clothing sizes for all family members and assist with some special items (ie snow gear). When donations are needed for arriving refugees Hearts & Homes asks that donors consider the “furniture and clothing with dignity” guideline. Hearts & Homes for Refugees does not have pick-up or storage available, but we network with several community nonprofits that also help provide needed items.
  2. LANGUAGE TRAINING & SUPPORT - Volunteers determine language-training needs and organize appropriate help according to those needs (either for children or parents). They will register adults for English as a Second Language (ESL) classes and provide supplemental ESL support.
  3. NAVIGATION OF THE SCHOOL SYSTEM– Committee members help register children at school, identify educational needs, interface with the school system to obtain needed support, provide advocacy where needed, and interact with involved teaching professionals if necessary.
  4. ADULT EDUCATION - If adult family members need formal schooling to learn a skill related to work, volunteers identify and organize classes for them.
  5. EMPLOYMENT ASSISTANCE - Committee members help identify suitable employment opportunities. They determine skills and proficiency needed, provide coaching for interviews, schedule interviews and help prepare for the interviews. 
  6. TRANSPORTATION COORDINATION – This committee organizes volunteer drivers to help family members get to medical appointments, school meetings etc. They can assist with buying/leasing a car if appropriate. The family is taught how to buy metro cards and navigate public transportation. 
  7. ACCESS TO SERVICES – This committee helps family members apply for Social Security cards, SNAP (formerly called food stamps), drivers licenses, state-issued identity cards, other public social services as needed. 
  8. HEALTHCARE – The healthcare system is complicated for all Americans. This committee helps the family schedule medical appointments and understand the health insurance system. They help register for Medicaid (retroactive to the day of arrival) and pick an insurance plan. For the various appointments that constitute the initial health screenings, committee volunteers accompany family members (usually at least three family appointments). They will work with the Transportation Team as necessary to arrange other medical appointments.
  9. FAMILY BUDGETING & FINANCES - These volunteers help the family learn the currency, open a bank account, help with family budgeting, and familiarize with credit cards/credit history.
  10. WELCOMING COMMITTEE - This committee is critical, as it provides interpreting, help integrating, and generally anything else that makes the family feel welcome and cared for from the moment they arrive at the airport. A celebratory first meal is provided in the family's new home, and any other needs that arise in the early days and weeks are handled. They are the first faces of a Welcoming America that will help them integrate as during the first year.

Organization Support Committees

  1. HOUSING - Find local and affordable housing; secure and assist with the lease.
  2. FUNDRAISING - Organize and execute fundraising to help the family meets its needs in the early days; reach out to potential funding sources; develop/maintain the website, especially the "Donate" page.
  3. COMMUNICATIONS – Oversee internal and external communications; reach out to the community on behalf of the family.
  4. VOLUNTEER COORDINATION- Recruit, screen, and assign volunteers to committees.
  5. TREASURER - Track the community sponsorship team's finances and donations; monitor the budget of the overall effort, filing necessary financial reports.

For tips on helping a refugee or asylee to find housing, employment, health care, furniture and more, see our online Resource Bank.

Resettlement history in Westchester County communities

Since late 2015 in Westchester County, nearly a dozen public-private partnerships between volunteer groups and two US refugee program resettlement agencies–HIAS and Catholic Charities– have been formed. Roughly 2,000 volunteers have been providing refugees with long-term support and effective assistance during their transition to life in America. In 2018, Hearts and Homes for Refugees formed the Westchester Refugee Initiative (WRI) to bring these groups and volunteers together. To see the groups who have been participating in the WRI, please click here.

To learn more about forming a community sponsorship volunteer group and other ways to support refugees in our communities, contact Hearts & Homes for Refugees at info@heartsandhomesforrefugees.org.

If you are interested in joining a community sponsorship team, please complete this form.