Hearts & Homes for Refugees celebrates seven years as nonprofit

Editor’s note: This press release was provided by Hearts and & Homes for Refugees. The Pelham Examiner publishes press releases in the form received as a service to the community.

This Thanksgiving week, Hearts & Homes for Refugees celebrates seven years as a nonprofit with a mission to welcome, resettle, and advocate for refugees. We are grateful for this milestone and for all those who have joined us in this work of welcoming.   This is especially meaningful to me because HHR started seven years ago around my kitchen table in Pelham, with volunteers from the community who eagerly wrapped their arms around the first community sponsored refugee family in Westchester County.  The Ali Dibs from Syria found a warm community and new friends that helped them launch to an independent life. They now live in Syracuse, with a new baby and older kids who are in and college bound!

Today, Hearts & Homes leads the welcoming movement in Westchester County, creating and stitching together volunteers from all corners of the county and beyond. We are expanding into other counties in the Lower Hudson Valley, forming more groups of volunteers. Our teams find and furnish housing, and help families with every aspect of their new lives– learning English, getting that first job, enrolling and supporting children and parents in our school system, learning to navigate health appointments and the medical system, community orientation from grocery shopping to public transportation. Our volunteers become the social network that families have been forced to leave behind.

We work to inspire others to do the same, and have touched nearly every group in Westchester County that has been inspired and mobilized to resettle families – seeding, mentoring and collaborating. This year, HHR will have resettled nearly 20 families and helped hundreds more as they begin new lives in safety and with dignity and hope.

Two of those families have been resettled with a HHR team with help from members of both The Pelham Jewish Center and Christ Church, and many more Pelhamites have signed up as individual volunteers.

We can’t thank those volunteers enough, because they are what make this possible.  Volunteers are shifting the paradigm of resettlement in this country as growing numbers of refugees are being resettled through volunteer-driven community sponsor models like ours.  In  2022, 20x more refugees have resettled in this country than in 2021 and half  have been resettled by private sponsors. 

2023 will see more versions of private resettlement than in the history of our country.  This means that more refugees who arrive here, having been thoroughly vetted and approved, can begin new lives and become contributing and supportive members of our communities. Community assistance is short-term, but crucial to families’ long-term success. Rather than relying on the government to meet the increasing numbers of refugees, it is the volunteers who will continue to make a difference in the lives of our new neighbors.

I am circling back to the Pelham Community to offer the opportunity to learn more about welcoming refugees.  There are several ways to volunteer.  If you want to learn more about being part of a community sponsorship group, or are interested in starting a Sponsor Circle to assist many Ukrainians and Venezuelans, please email hello@heartsandhomesforrefugees.  We will be hosting webinars and possibly in person meetings in the next few months.  I hope some of the Pelham community will join this growing movement and help us lift the lamp and shine a light on our legacy and tradition of a welcoming country.