Public/private partnership with communities and resettlement agencies to effectively extend the support for refugees to increase their chances of successfully assimilating and achieving independence on their path as new Americans.
During this time of fierce debate about immigration policy, refugee bans and subsequent legal action, the US resettlement program is being dismantled is currently on pace to welcome the fewest refugees in its history. Our doors are closed to those needing refuge. Consequently, the opportunities for welcoming refugees through co-sponsorship are very few.
Since late 2015 in Westchester County, nearly a dozen public-private partnerships between volunteer groups and two US refugee program resettlement agencies–HIAS and Catholic Charities have been formed. Roughly 2,000 volunteers have been providing refugees with long-term support and effective assistance during their transition to life in America. However, this current Administration is effectively dismantling the resettlement program through refugee bans and funding cuts, leaving a country that is closing its doors on refugees with the fewest arrivals since the post-war start of the US resettlement program. In FY 2018, the opportunities to partner with a US government-approved resettlement agency as a co-sponsor or host organization are few and far between. Consequently, the opportunities for welcoming refugees through co-sponsorship are very few.
Because we believe this is a temporary failure on the part of the American government, we choose to leave this description and hope that others will consider forming groups when the time comes that we can once again be that country which offers refuge.
In the meantime, read more about how to get involved in other ways: Helping Hands for Refugees, Ambassador Program, Donate!
How does co-sponsorship refugee resettlement work?
There are nine resettlement agencies in the United States that are responsible for refugees who have been approved for resettlement. Typically, these agencies resettle refugees directly, without the support of volunteer organizations. There are standard procedures that they follow to help refugees from the time they arrive. Housing and other critical support are provided for 90 days; families are expected to continue on the path toward independence on their own, with little additional support.
When a group of volunteers partners with a resettlement agency, they are known as Cosponsors or Hosts and are able to provide additional time and resources to each family. This makes a meaningful difference and offers better chances for successful acculturation and independence. This public-private partnership model is growing in popularity throughout the country and, if shared and adopted, could result in a paradigm shift in the way we welcome and support refugees.
The Cosponsorship model has built-in benefits:
Refugees receive far more support and for longer periods of time, promising more sustainable and realistic chances for successful integration and independence.
Resettlement Agencies invest in their co-sponsors' training and orientation, giving them valuable resources and tools for working with families.
mutual benefits are realized by the agencies and volunteers; the volunteers are greatly moved having a hands-on role in making a new life for a refugee family. Many volunteers experience this as "the magic of refugees."
Organizing a Team
In Westchester County, the two authorized Resettlement Agencies, Catholic Charities and HIAS, have worked with more than ten organizations formed specifically to partner as cosponsor and host organizations.
Volunteers are key to successful co-sponsorship. Volunteers are grouped according to the family's resettlement needs. From getting a roof over their heads to meeting the cultural, practical and emotional needs of refugees, co-sponsors provide the person-to-person support that is so valuable in the early days, weeks, months of a family's journey to independence. The cosponsorship model names 15 committees dedicated to refugee needs and services. Ten of those committees directly interact the family members while the remaining five offer critical support to the organization.
Family Support Committees
FURNITURE, CLOTHING & HOUSEHOLD ITEMS - This committee outfits the apartment/home with furniture, kitchenware, and all other room items. They get clothing sizes for all family members and assist with some special items (ie snow gear). HHr follows the "furniture and clothing with dignity" system -- donor cannot provide the proper materials, they will find a temporary storage option and secure transportation as needed.
LANGUAGE TRAINING & SUPPORT - Volunteers determine language-training needs and organize appropriate help according to those needs (either for children or parents). They will register adults for English as a Second Language (ESL) classes and provide supplemental ESL support.
NAVIGATION OF THE SCHOOL SYSTEM– Committee members help register children at school, identify educational needs, interface with the school system to obtain needed support, provide advocacy where needed, and interact with involved teaching professionals if necessary.
ADULT EDUCATION - If adult family members need formal schooling to learn a skill related to work, volunteers identify and organize classes for them.
EMPLOYMENT ASSISTANCE - Committee members help identify suitable employment opportunities. They determine skills and proficiency needed, provide coaching for interviews, schedule interviews and help prepare for the interviews.
TRANSPORTATION COORDINATION – This committee organizes volunteer drivers to help family members get to medical appointments, school meetings etc. They can assist with buying/leasing a car if appropriate. The family is taught how to buy metro cards and navigate public transportation.
ACCESS TO SERVICES – This committee helps family members apply for Social Security cards, SNAP (formerly called food stamps), drivers licenses, state-issued identity cards, other public social services as needed.
HEALTHCARE – The healthcare system is complicated for all Americans. This committee helps the family schedule medical appointments and understand the health insurance system. They help register for Medicaid (retroactive to the day of arrival) and pick an insurance plan. This is best accomplished with a health navigator or at a public hospital. For the various appointments that constitute the initial health screenings, committee volunteers accompany family members (usually at least three family appointments). They will work with the Transportation Team as necessary to arrange other medical appointments.
FAMILY BUDGETING & FINANCES - These volunteers help the family learn the currency, open a bank account and help with family budgeting.
WELCOMING COMMITTEE - This committee is critical, as it provides interpreting, help assimilating, and generally anything else that makes the family feel welcome and cared for from the moment they arrive at JFK. A celebratory first meal is provided in the family's new home, and any other needs that arise in the early days and weeks are handled. They are the first faces of a Welcoming America that will help them integrate and assimilate as they strive for independence in the first year.
Organization Support Committees
HOUSING - Find local and affordable housing; secure and assist with the lease.
FUNDRAISING - Organize and execute fundraising to help the family meets its needs in the early days; reach out to potential funding sources; develop/maintain the website, especially the "Donate" page.
COMMUNICATIONS – Oversee internal and external communications; reach out to the community on behalf of the family.
VOLUNTEER COORDINATION- Recruit, screen, and assign volunteers to committees.
TREASURER - Track the co-sponsoring team's finances and donations; monitor the budget of the overall effort, filing necessary financial reports.
Contact the following organizations for more information about forming a co-sponsor volunteer group
Hearts and Homes for Refugees (HHR)
HHR is a non-profit humanitarian organization based in Pelham, NY whose mission is to work with authorized resettlement agencies to welcome, protect and advocate for new families We work to inspire, educate and motivate other communities to do the same.
For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Facebook Hearts and Homes for Refugees
Hearts and Homes for Refugees Website
Pleasantville Armonk Resettlement Team (PART One)
PART One is affiliated with Pleasantville Community Synagogue, Congregation B’nai Yisrael in Armonk, and Westchester Jewish Community Services. It is assisted by a larger group of faith communities and civic groups in northern Westchester. PART One has partnered with Catholic Charities to co-sponsor a Syrian refugee family in northern Westchester. For more information and to volunteer contact info@PARTOne.us
Neighbors for Refugees
Neighbors for Refugees is a grassroots humanitarian group located in Westchester County, NY. Its mission is to welcome, protect, and advocate for refugees in local communities here and abroad.
Approved Resettlement Agencies in Westchester County
Catholic Charities Community Services (CCCS)
Catholic Charities Community Service (CCCS) is one of the nine government-approved resettlement agencies in the United States. In response to the call from communities, faith groups, and organizations in Westchester County looking to welcome refugees, CCCS opened an office in Yonkers, thereby enabling local organizations like Hearts and Homes for Refugees to co-sponsor families.
Similiar to Catholic Charities, HIAS, is one of nine US Resettlement Agencies, and the second that operates in Westchester County.