Hearts and Homes for Refugees
Hearts & Homes for Refugees is a nonprofit community grassroots organization that works with the U.S. Department of State-designated agencies to resettle refugees and to build more welcoming communities.
As the U.S. government works to quickly move the remaining 20,000 Afghan refugees off military bases and into communities across the country, Hearts & Homes for Refugees is redoubling its efforts to expand community sponsorship in the region.
In August 2021, the world watched on in dismay as Afghanistan fell to the Taliban. More than 76,000 refugees arrived at eight U.S. military bases. By the time they leave the bases to restart their lives in communities throughout the U.S., they are thoroughly vetted, vaccinated and processed.
Hearts & Homes Founder and President, Kathie O’Callaghan, reminds us, “These are our allies and friends who stood by the U.S. as the war raged in their country for twenty years. They need our help, a place to call home.”
With the federal government planning to move the remaining 20,000 Afghans off the bases during February, O’Callaghan states that there is an urgent need for more volunteers to join or create Community Sponsor groups to welcome them to the Lower Hudson Valley.
Community Sponsors are made up of volunteers who provide a strong network of support. They find and furnish homes, provide a warm welcome, connect new arrivals to employment, help families enroll children in school, learn English, navigate the medical system, orient them to the communities where they are resettling, and more.
“We are a welcome wagon made up of trained and passionate volunteers. We assist refugees by providing a soft landing in every possible way for better long-term outcomes as new Americans,” says O’Callaghan.
In the last four months, Hearts & Homes has resettled six cases in Westchester County and furnished apartments for three additional families in New York City, as well as supported other Community Sponsor groups with their own resettlement cases.
O’Callaghan says, “Our goal in this current crisis is exactly what it has been for the last six years–to resettle refugees and to inspire others to join this movement. And when they do, we are there to assist, share best practices and resources.” She emphasizes “It is this spirit of volunteerism and collaboration that ensures we bring the best that Westchester County has to offer our new neighbors.”
Hearts & Homes for Refugees was the first community sponsor to resettle a refugee family in Westchester. Since then, it has been leading the way, educating, engaging volunteers and donors across the Lower Hudson Valley, and partnering with resettlement agencies such as Catholic Charities, HIAS and IRC to resettle, assist and advocate for refugees.
Hearts & Homes has provided Community Sponsorship support to nearly 200 refugees, and helped to launch new or assist more than a dozen Community Sponsor groups since 2016. In addition to resettling refugees, Hearts & Homes’ services range from ESOL tutoring to drives for winter coats, school backpacks and personal products. These distributions have served more than 500 refugees and asylees each year in the tri-state area.
Founding Board member, Donna Shirreffs said, “Not only did Kathie envision that Hearts & Homes would resettle refugees, but her goal was also to build a longer welcoming table by engaging as many volunteers and groups across faith, civic and youth communities as possible.”
Today, Hearts & Homes continues to expand its active and ongoing partnerships with U.S. Resettlement Agencies as well as other community groups and local nonprofits that work hand in hand to resettle Afghan refugee families in our communities.
According to Program Director Amy Robertson, Hearts & Homes is recruiting, training and onboarding new volunteers as quickly as possible. “We will commit to responsibly resettling as many families as we can provide volunteer teams for, and we welcome the opportunity to help other community sponsorship groups get started.”
According to O’Callaghan, “Hearts & Homes for Refugees will provide guidance, resources and fundraising assistance to those who raise their hands and say ‘How can I help?”
Learn how you can play a vital role as Community Sponsors in supporting the resettlement of new Afghan neighbors. Contact: Hello@Heartsandhomesforrefugees.org Learn more at www.heartsandhomesforrefugees.org