Skip to main content

Cover Image for Page

Convene, Welcome, Educate, Advocate 

Westchester Refugee Initiative

HHR's two-part Mission provides for support of refugee resettlement through the public-private co-sponsorship model (with US Department of State designated refugee resettlement agency partners) as well as programs that "Inspire, Educate and Motivate" others to welcome refugees.

During this time of fierce debate about immigration policy, refugee bans and the dismantling of the US resettlement program, the US is currently on pace to welcome the fewest refugees in its history.  As much as our hearts lie with resettling refugees using the co-sponsorship model, the fact is that for now, as policies of this administration effectively result in turning our backs on refugees, we must turn much of our attention to sustaining the grassroots energy and finding other ways to embrace core American values of welcoming. 

To meet this challenge, HHR founded and is leading the Westchester Refugee Initiative, a coalition-building effort.

Westchester Refugee Initiative (WRI) brings together a diverse coalition of agencies, non-profit organizations, faith and interfaith communities, student and community groups, and committed individuals that collaborate to support refugees and refugee resettlement in Westchester County. WRI aims to bring together, engage and grow this grassroots effort through education, awareness building, advocacy and direct support of refugees to assist them in their integration and assimilation as new Americans.

There are more than 30 groups and 2,000 volunteers and supporters in Westchester County sharing resources and participating in opportunities to advocate for just refugee and asylum policies, educate neighbors and communities and assist refugee and asylee populations across the county. 

Our voices are louder and actions stronger when we work together.

as of November, 2018

WRI Network at a Glance (click here)


We envision a Westchester County that offers tolerance, respect and refuge for those who have been forced to flee their homes. 


To share our collective knowledge, resources, expertise, and opportunities; to raise awareness about the plight of refugees; to advocate for their continued acceptance and protection; to expand the network with new and supporters; and to inspire other communities to replicate this model of community building and refugee resettlement. 

How Do We Support Refugees?

Direct Support Helping Hands connects refugees, asylees and Special Immigration Visa holder (SIVs) with volunteers, providing short-term assistance to refugees and related populations.

Advocacy has been an important activity. From petitions to postcard writing, the WRI  Advocacy Plan and Toolkit offers guidelines and instructions on advocating for refugee resettlement in the U.S. and a dignified, just immigration policy. Our goal in 2019 is a stronger, more strategic Advocacy Program to bring the full force of the entire WRI network on policies that positively impact the welcoming movement.

Awareness Raising   Staying Connected and communicating across the network is a powerful way to amplify and spread the messages of welcoming. Creating and jointly participating in Activities and Events–speaking engagements, community activities – are ways to inspire, educate and motivate support for refugees.  (see Welcoming Week 2018 )

Ambassadors  Volunteers are invited to help spread the word about refugees and resettlement in their local communities as Ambassadors.

WRI Programs

Helping Hands

Advocating for Refugees

Be An Ambassador

Stay Connected 

Upcoming Events

HHR/WRI Members, Friends & Supporters

HHR relies heavily on networking to extend the reach and impact of our work on behalf of refugees. 

In Westchester County, WRI represents non-profit organizations, faith communities, student and community groups, and committed individuals dedicated to supporting refugee and asylee populations, educating neighbors and communities, and advocating for just refugee and asylum policies across the county. A diverse and committed coalition is the key to successful collaboration and results.

We invite your organization to learn more about joining this network to uplift the welcoming movement. Email

WRI Members

   Hearts and Homes for Refugees, Pelham -WRI Founder 

Catholic Charities of New York

HIAS New York

American Muslim Women's Association

Community Church of the Pelhams

Community Unitarian Universalist Congregation at White Plains

Ethical Culture Society of Westchester

First Unitarian Society of Westchester (FUSW)

Inter-Faith Council for New Americans Westchester (ICNAW)

Beth El Synagogue (New Rochelle), Community Unitarian Universalist Congregation at White Plains, Ethical Cultural Society of Westchester, New Rochelle United Methodist Church, Temple Israel of New Rochelle, Temple Israel Center of White Plains

Neighbors for Refugees, Larchmont/Mamaroneck

PART One (Pleasantville Armonk Resettlement Team)

Congregation B’nai Yisrael, Pleasantville Community Synagogue

Rivertowns for Refugees

Irvington Presbyterian Church, Temple Beth Shalom, Social Action for 10591, Irvington High School, Our Lady of Pompeii, Temple Beth Shalom Social Action, St. Barnabas, Grace Episcopal, Hastings NY, Christ Episcopal Church, Zion Episcopal Dobbs Ferry, Irvington Activists, Temple Beth Abraham, Greenburgh Hebrew Center, Sacred Heart, Reformed Church of Tarrytown, All Saints Episcopal Church Briarcliff, South Presbyterian Church, St. Matthew & Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Church of the Immaculate Conception, Christ Episcopal Church & San Marcos

Sisters of the Divine Compassion (RDC)

Students for Refugees

Founded by Scarsdale High School, with branches in the following Westchester High Schools: Ardsley, Blind Brook, Hackley, Horace Mann, Irvington, Mamaroneck, New Rochelle, Rye Country Day School. Branches also in other cities across the country and in Europe.

St. John’s Lutheran Church, Mamaroneck

Woodlands-Bet Am Shalom, White Plains

WRI Friends

Capuchin Franciscans

Community Synagogue of Rye

Congregation Emanu-El of Westchester, Rye

Greater NYC Families for Syria

Huguenot Memorial Church of the Pelhams

JCC Harrison

Interfaith Committee for Refugee Resettlement, Rye

Christ's Church, Rye Presbyterian and Rye Community Synagogue

Maryknoll Society

Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees

Northern Westchester Interfaith Coalition for Refugee Resettlement

Northwest Yonkers Neighbors for Refugees

Riverdale Bronx Interfaith Coalition

Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville

Veterans for American Ideals

Westchester Coalition Against Islamophobia

Westchester Reform Temple, Scarsdale

White Plains-Scarsdale Refugee Resettlement Group

Congregation Kol Ami, Scarsdale Synagogue Temples Tremont and Emanu-el

WRI Partners and Supporters

The Alien Chronicles: Immigrant Stories

Pelham Picture House

Pineapple Fund

Real New York Tours

Welcoming America

West End Collegiate Church


For information about participating in WRI, email:

Additional Refugee Support Resources

Family to Family - Donate a Monthly Gift Card for Groceries 

Westchester County-based Family to Family's Refugee Sponsorship Program helps families and individuals that have arrived throughout the U.S. seeking asylum. As they rebuild their lives, start jobs and enroll in school, your sponsorship will provide the family with a week’s worth of groceries each month. Contact Pam Kroner at Family to Family.  

Hello Neighbor 

Hello Neighbor is a Pittsburgh based mentorship program that matches neighbors with refugee families.  Visit the site for more information about starting a Hello Neighbor program in your community.  Our Booster Program is modeled on Hello Neighbor.

Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services (IRIS)

Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS) helps refugees and other displaced people establish new lives, regain hope, and contribute to the vitality of Connecticut's communities.  IRIS accomplishes works in New Haven and over forty other communities throughout Connecticut.  IRIS also promotes its community co-sponsorship model beyond Connecticut in hopes that many more communities will have the joy of personally welcoming and working with refugees in their hometowns.  

Volunteers and organizations in Westchester County are working with IRIS and their refugees in meaningful ways. Learn more about their programs and how you and your faith group, neighbors, family or civic/social groups can get involved with support of a family or an IRIS program. Contact:  Ann O'Brien, Director of Community Engagement

NuDay Syria

NuDay Syria is a New England-based organization that provides aid to displaced Syrians abroad, with special regard for Syrian women and girls amidst the crisis. Communities that partner with them hold local donation drives for goods which are sent to Syria in on container ships.

In October, 2017, Hearts and Homes for Refugees collected urgently needed supplies for the Syrian people. Thanks to generous neighbors, 25,000 lbs of goods were collected, sorted and packed for delivery to an awaiting container in New Hampshire. The donations collected throughout New England were shipped with the aid NuDay Syria whose 'boots on the ground' in Syria provide access and appropriate distribution in this war-torn country. The container arrived in Turkey and made the final leg of the trip into northern Syria where donations were distributed to displaced Syrians in refugees in camps and hospitals. 

In addition to Container Drives, NuDay Syria provides education and other on-site services in Syria.  Learn more about ways to support their overseas efforts. NuDay Syria Website: . On Facebook: 

If you are interested in conducting a container drive in your community contact NuDay Syria and feel free to borrow from HHR's planning and execution manual  Pelham to Syria Winter Donations. For more on our story, read here: HHR/NuDay Syria Winter Donations Drive.

Needs List

The United States has an aid system in need of aid! Our current institutions can't keep up with the rapidly increasing demand for people displaced by conflict and climate change.  NeedsList addresses the need for innovation in the humanitarian sector with a marketplace connecting local NGOs with individual and corporate donors.  NGOs in the field can list itemized needs for goods, services, or donations in real time.  Donors can immediately meet needs by purchasing directly from local suppliers on NeedsList, donating funds, and completing tasks. Contact: Natasha Friedus@needslist4good, +33 6 68 87 47 06, 

+1 (206) 201-2688. Skype: tashafr, Read about NeedsList in  Forbes and the Philadelphia Inquirer. Meet this week's urgent needs here. 
No One Left Behind
One World, One Love

Save the Syrian Children
Save the Syrian Children has the simple mission of saving as many women and children trapped by the war. They do this by sending life-saving medical aid to the hardest hit areas of the conflict. Partnering with a vetted network of doctors on the ground, Save the Syrian Children compiles lists of needs and fulfills these by going directly to factories and manufacturers in China. IIn-kind donations are also accepted from the United States. By carving a safe corridor into Syria, goods arrive in the hands of doctors in the provinces of Idlib and Aleppo (Northern Syria) and in Quneitra and Daraa (Southern Syria). 
Since the first shipment left the port of Shanghai in March 2017, Save the Syrian Children has delivered over 1 million units of medical supplies, totaling over $29 million dollars. Save the Syrian Children is run by volunteers only with zero overhead costs.
Welcome Home
Welcome Home is a volunteer group in Jersey City, NJ that partners with their local resettlement agency,  Church World Service to support arriving refugees.  If you live in the area and have time or donations to offer, contact Welcome Home or go to Church World Service

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

Helen Keller