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HHR Programs & Activities in 2018

Westchester Refugee Initiative

During this time of fierce debate about immigration policy, refugee bans and subsequent legal action, we expect a dip in resettlement cases and related funding in FY 2018. The opportunities for co-sponsorship may indeed be very few.

The challenge before us is to keep up the momentum for support of refugees recently resettled in the region. With input from the coalition of organizations and individuals throughout the network, HHR has created the Westchester Refugee Initiative (WRI), a program that offers innovative ways for communities and individual volunteers to remain involved.

REFUGEE  BOOSTER PROGRAM

The Refugee Booster Program is integral to the HHR Westchester Refugee Initiative and its mission.  As part of its goal to establish partnerships and programs to welcome and integrate refugees and other vulnerable humanitarian migrants in Westchester County, the Refugee Booster Program is specifically designed to assist those populations who are no longer in the resettlement period but find themselves needing help from time to time. The Refugee Booster Program is essentially a “matching” program, connecting resettled families and individuals who face challenges as they attempt to settle into their new lives, with volunteers looking to be friends, allies, and advocates for the refugee community.  This program will formalize existing ad hoc efforts, maximize impact and effectively reach increased numbers of people seeking help while harnessing the energy of numerous volunteers deeply committed to the cause of refugee support. Local partners Catholic Charities and HIAS have the reach and resources to identify the needs, provide vetting and training for volunteers, while HHR’s growing database identifies over one thousand volunteers eager to make a difference in the lives of their new neighbors. Modeled after successful programs like the Pittsburgh-based Hello Neighbor (www.helloneighbor.io), the Refugee Booster Program will give individuals, families, and organizations the opportunity for meaningful interaction with a refugee family in need.  Assistance might range from a clothing drive, the collection of toiletries, or the donation of gift cards for gas or diapers, to assistance with medical appointments, language classes, job training, job searches, or even a housing search.  The Refugee Booster Program has the capacity to discern need, small or large, and tap into a robust volunteer database to provide solutions. This program will bolster our recently resettled neighbors, engage our volunteers, fulfill the mission and goals of the Westchester Refugee Initiative and strengthen the welcoming movement in Westchester County and beyond.  

If your family, church or social/civic group, family members, co-sponsor or host organization has time and interest in helping those in these vulnerable populations from time to time, please send an email and ask to add your name to the volunteer match list.  WRI@heartsandhomesforrefugees.com.

ADVOCACY

Advocate For Refugees 

The Syrian conflict has produced 5.4 million refugees since 2011 and shows no sign of abating. But so far in 2018, the United States has welcomed just five Syrian refugees and only 38 since the beginning of the federal fiscal year in October.

Advocating for refugee resettlement programs is vital to effectively respond to the greatest refugee crisis in human history. Resettlement Agencies and refugee organizations were alarmed by the President's proposed ban and budget for the FY 2018. Not only does it lower the number of refugees allowed into the country, it cuts funding for the Office of Refugee Resettlement by over 31 percent. These budget cuts and reduced numbers coming to the US will only worsen the global humanitarian crisis. This situation requires us to speak out and advocate for refugees at the federal, state, and local levels. Our legislators need to hear from all of us that we believe in the American value of welcoming the stranger. Ask your Member of Congress to stand up for Syrian refugees: Advocating for Syrian Refugees.   

Please contact your local lawmakers

Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is a co-sponsor of Senate Resolution 56 which seeks to reaffirm our position as a global leader in welcoming refugees and asylum seekers regardless of race or religion. He also co-sponsored S. 240 which would repeal the recent executive order which seeks to restrict travel from certain Muslim-majority countries. 

Contact Senator Charles E. Schumer and Senator Kristen Gillibrand urge them both to work with fellow lawmakers in Congress to ensure America remains a safe and open haven for refugees.  

Urge ALL your representatives to designate more funding to aid Syrians and advocate for increased numbers of Syrian refugees allowed into the United States.

We are looking especially for those volunteers with experience or interest in spearheading and participating in advocacy.  Email:  WRI@heartsandhomesforrefugees.com

Advocate for Refugees/Special Immigrant Visas (SIV)

As of Spring 2017, there were approximately 60,000 Iraqi and 15,000 Afghan interpreters who had applied to resettle in the US, but only 1,437 visas were granted under the SIV Program and USRAP. 

Iraqi and Afghan translators risk their lives and the lives of their families to assist our troops. As a result, many have been living in hiding and in fear for years while they await their visas. If you or your community is interested in advocating for SIV's, check out No One Left Behind and Veterans for American Ideals.  Please contact these organizations, and write your legislators expressing support for SIV cases. To stay abreast of advocacy opportunities,  please follow us on Hearts and Homes for Refugees Facebook page.

AMBASSADOR PROGRAM

In the course of one year, Westchester County advocates for resettlement and refugee issues, cosponsors and hosts, have become  active and experienced voices of the welcoming movement. What better way to increase awareness, understanding of and support for the welcoming movement that to tap into those who can share their convictions and learnings with others in their own communities, and in others, which have not been part of the grassroots welcoming movement?  Taking messages about welcoming refugees, resettlement, refugee support and ways to get involved, can be a powerful neighbor-to-neighbor outreach program. With facts and experience-based presentations, WRI Ambassador program volunteers will represent the grassroots movement at community meetings, schools, church groups, and more in a positive light and by doing so help to grow the effort.  To learn more about volunteering to be an Ambassador, or to have an Ambassador meet with your group, send an email to WRI@heartsandhomesforrefugees.com.

“Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it.”

Helen Keller