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COVID-19

Staying Strong.

Leading With The Heart.

Thanks to the help of over 240 donors and dozens of volunteers, Hearts & Homes for Refugees provided assistance to more than 400 refugee neighbors from mid-March through the end of July, and the help is ongoing.

From cash assistance to goods, support with homeschooling to resources for addressing COVID-19, your support has enabled Hearts & Homes to provide a robust response to this crisis.

Support Refugees in Westchester

Here is how Hearts & Homes for Refugees has been responding to COVID-19*:

Over $30,000 in cash assistance distributed to refugees, asylees and asylum seekers. This included MasterCard gift cards, grocery and clothing store gift cards, and cash grants. Funding partners included Project Niyyah, United Way of Westchester and Putnam, the Upper Westchester Muslim Society, and numerous generous individuals. Our partnership with The Giving Block opened up new sources of funding through cryptocurrency. 

414 refugees (130 families) from 25 countries were assisted by Hearts & Homes between March and July 2020. Families included those in the Westchester Refugee Initiative network, as well as others identified by our partners Catholic Charities, HIAS and Keeping Our Promise.

Emergency support included delivery of masks, food, toiletries and cleaning supplies, as well as services to navigate the crisis. Over 40 volunteers helped with:

  • registering refugees for unemployment and job searches

  • online tutoring and ‘learn and play’ sessions for children

  • COVID resource & information sharing

  • Zoom group meetings to break the isolation

  • delivery of in-kind donations

In-kind donations coordinated by Hearts & Homes and our volunteers included bicycles, a/c units, furniture, electronics, baby items and more. We partnered with the American Women’s Muslim Association on the delivery of Eid baskets and food boxes. We partnered with Neighbors for Refugees (NFR) on the creation and delivery of Boredom Buster Bags of books and games to 24 families in the Westchester Refugee Initiative, 7 families in Mamaroneck/Larchmont identified by the Community Resource Center, and 28 families in New Jersey identified by Welcome Home, as well as donated books to Open Door Medical Center for their clients. Hearts & Homes provided a grant to NFR for their project of refugee-sewn masks, and distributed masks to 70 adults (donated by NFR) and 30 children (donated by refugee Salem Azizi) across the Westchester Refugee Initiative. 

*mid-March through end of July 2020

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More details - what we do:

Checking in and responding to growing needs:

Hearts & Homes has been touching base with ‘post-resettlement’ refugees who no longer have volunteer teams to turn to, as well as the many asylee families who have participated in the Helping Hands program. We are checking in, assessing needs in conjunction with Catholic Charities, and working with partners across the Westchester Refugee Initiative to meet those needs as they arise. This ranges from gift cards for groceries to support in applying for unemployment benefits. We have also expanded support to additional people in need identified by Catholic Charities and HIAS, who are ineligible for government support.

Providing information to local refugees via email and social media:

Links to reliable sources for coronavirus information. This includes links to Governor Cuomo’s page, the Westchester County Department of Health, and information from UNICEF on talking to your children about coronavirus - with a version in Dari, the national language of Afghanistan. It also included websites and hotline phone numbers for food distributions, mental health and domestic violence.

Links for ways to stay healthy and engaged. This has included online resources for adults learning English plus reading websites and apps for kids. It also included a wonderful video from the director of the World Health Organization with five tips for staying healthy, as well as links to online workouts recommended by both volunteers and refugees.

See our resources on where to access food distributions in Westchester, and information about available employment and filing for unemployment.

Connecting refugees virtually and socially-distanced:

We know that at a time like this, the importance of community cannot be underestimated. Through the Westchester Refugee Initiative (WRI), Hearts & Homes for Refugees supported the organization of a refugee women’s conversation group. In this time of social isolation, we thought it would be great if the women could meet up online! Together with our friends at ICNAW and Neighbors for Refugees, we helped interested women get set up on Zoom, and have been meeting weekly since then. WRI Ambassador Reshad Ahmadi has also organized both online and socially-distanced in-person meet-ups for refugee men.

 

Supporting a mask-making project:

Neighbors for Refugees has connected five local refugee women to www.masksforny.org, who in turn are part of the collective www.sewforny.org.

Hearts & Homes has promoted the project and secured a grant to help pay the refugees for their efforts.

medical mask hand sewn from cloth 

Financially supporting SIV* refugees in Rochester:

Hundreds of refugees have been welcomed by our partner Keeping Our Promise in Rochester in recent years. Hearts & Homes for Refugees was already exploring ways to support our friends up north when COVID-19 exploded. Since then, the situation has become more dire, as refugees have been laid-off. Hearts & Homes provided rent and utilities support for three families. We convened WRI members, and ICNAW and Neighbors for Refugees have also sent funding, as did several individuals.

With coronavirus, the challenges are many. Laid off? Unpaid sick time? Taking time off to care for an ill loved one? Struggling to manage child care?

Some refugees may not have been working in the U.S. long enough to qualify for unemployment benefits or the stimulus package. Others face challenges due to the nature of their jobs as housecleaners, laborers or other self-employment in the gig economy. 


Refugee families are resilient, but at the same time they are particularly vulnerable. Many have underlying health concerns and are just one paycheck away from financial hardship. In addition, they have been through more trauma in the past few years than most of us will experience in a lifetime. Many families need extra support right now with rent, utilities, groceries and other essentials.


Your donation now to our COVID-19 Relief Fund will be used to fight the medical, social and economic impact of the crisis for this vulnerable population.


Refugees have already been through so much. By banding together, we can make the days ahead a bit easier. 

This work simply isn't possible without you.

Your donation will support COVID-19 recovery assistance for the most vulnerable in our community. Thank you for your help.

Donate Now

Donations can be made via Paypal, credit card or even cryptocurrency.

*"SIVs" are refugees are from Afghanistan who hold Special Immigration Visas, granted admission to the U.S. because of threats on their lives for having in supported U.S. troops and government in Afghanistan.