LSSNCA has been reaching out to our DMV community for the past six weeks asking for assistance for our refugee and immigrant families who are particularly impacted by the health crisis. Several of our clients have reported loss of jobs and reduced hours and revenues. This, in turn, has directly affected their household incomes and ability to pay for rent, utilities, groceries, and other necessities. (You can read about the other impacts on refugee and immigrant families here.)
Our case managers and employment specialists have been working around the clock to assist families with applications for relief funds, helping eligible clients apply for unemployment, and access to other forms of temporary cash assistance. Yet still there have been financial and in-kind needs during these past several weeks. Thankfully, we have a very responsive community!
Several people sprang into action and donated to our emergency assistance fund – PLEASE continue to do so! Through this fund, we are supporting clients in rental assistance, gift cards for groceries, and some of the critical administrative needs of the agency. Further, five groups opted to become virtual Good Neighbor Partners, hosting online shopping sprees and fundraisers to furnish a recently-arrived family’s new home. These GNP groups have included synagogues, a Jewish community center in DC, groups of family/friends, and a local sorority chapter.
Other community groups and donors sprang into action in creative ways to meet the immediate needs of our families. We want to recognize and applaud the efforts of all our community partners and donors during this time. Below you can read about many of these initiatives and donations.
Food for Thought
Thanks to an innovative and reactive local community partnership and many volunteers, we were able to deliver 100 vegetarian meals and children’s books to our Maryland refugee families, as well as families in our Youth Development and Wellness Program (YDW).
Now that libraries are closed and families are looking for forms of entertainment and education for their kids, donor Mary Jeffers reached out to us, to donate her collection of new children’s books. She runs a little pop-up bookstore business and was happy to make sure children of all ages had something to keep them busy and curious. When Mary offered this large book donation we decided it would be fun to pair the books with another donation.
We were contacted by the local partners of an innovative national initiative called In This Together. In This Together, or Juntos En Esto, is a movement to support small businesses, first responders, the food-insecure, and those most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Locally, In This Together is working with The Viva Center, which is a licensed therapeutic service center in Dupont. They partner with Hook Hall Helps each week to identify restaurants willing to support and deliver food to beneficiaries.
Through this initiative, Sticky Fingers Bakery provided 100 meals for our families. They provided coconut curried lentils, mixed with grains and sautéed greens—a delicious, healthy, and halal-friendly meal for clients to enjoy on the eve of Ramadan. Thanks to the coordination of Hook Hall Helps and In This Together, food delivery by Sticky Fingers, and food and book delivery to clients’ homes by volunteers (Natalie Greenleaf, Amandine Thomas, Sandy Hu and her daughter Elisa, and Peter Magnaye) 22 families—that’s 105 people—were positively touched by this effort.
Thanks to quick responses from the donor community, LSSNCA is receiving laptop, tablet, and technology donations to keep our newly-arrived refugee and immigrant families connected and online during the health crisis. Various individual donors have come through to provide new and used tech gear to our refugee and immigrant families.
For the newly-arrived Walayat family, this laptop donation was a blessing for them during COVID-19:
“To be honest, the laptop connected us not only with the educational institute but with the globe. In particular, with my family [back in Afghanistan]. We talk to them regularly. We also watch lectures and collect information using the laptop,” Mr. Walayat said of the donation.
Not only has the laptop provided all eight kids with a form of entertainment, but Mr. Walayat is using it to search for jobs. In Afghanistan, he was a managing accountant and he would like to reenter that field.
Huge thanks go out to donor, Marie McElroy! She says she “felt refugees may be falling under the radar right now and needed more support. The picture confirms that was where the laptop needed to be!”
Another tech donation came from the First Baptist Church of Alexandria, to the family they sponsor through the Good Neighbor Partner program. Four new Amazon tablets were purchased and delivered to the Hakim family of six. As you can see, the kids were excited for this new form of entertainment and connection to have been delivered to their home.
Lots of gratitude goes out to the multiple donors and to those who coordinated the setting up homes for newly-arrived refugee and immigrant families. Despite the halt in refugee flights to the U.S., any Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) holders who are already in the country can apply for our services as ‘walk-in’ clients. Therefore, we continue to have new families to serve and new apartments that must be set up with the furnishings and supplies required for a refugee family’s home.
Several of these donations and deliveries have been coordinated by the local organization Homes Not Borders. If you follow our social media, you have seen our posts on the tremendous help of HNB and how they are adapting to their ‘new normal’ for refugee home set-ups.
HNB wanted to highlight the story of one of their recent donors, Edward, who had a set of leather chairs that needed to be refurbished. He set out to not only refurbish the chairs but to build a matching wooden table. Given the amount of work and time that Edward put into this donation, he wanted to meet the family the furniture went to. Usually, when HNB does an apartment set-up for LSSNCA, it is prior to the family’s arrival. However, this time we had an SIV walk-in family that needed furniture. Therefore, in early April, Edward was able to drop off the dining table and refurbished chairs for a curb-side delivery and he got to meet the family from a safe distance. Though only a few muffled words spoken through a facemask were able to be shared, the generosity and gratitude were surely felt. The family followed up with Edward in a text to thank him and share a photo of the family sharing their first meal at the table Edward built with his hands and his heart.
Another donor, Kathy Flanagan, donated furniture for a newly-arrived Afghan family in Northern Virginia. We shared the family’s gratitude and photos with Kathy, to which she replied: “I was delighted to learn about the opportunity to donate my unneeded furniture and other household items to this newly-arrived family! My neighbors also joined in this effort, with additional items we hope the family will use and enjoy. I can only imagine the challenges this family has experienced during their journey from Afghanistan. I hope that the donated items let them know that they are welcome here and help them to feel less alone in this new, very different place. We wish them the best as they adjust to their new home!”
Thank you to all of our Good Neighbor Partners, volunteer groups, and donors who help us turn apartments and houses into homes for recently-arrived families. That graciousness and welcoming is felt and appreciated.
Bringing Home Baby
The Giving Foundation and one of our Hyattsville staff members gifted baby items and gift cards to the several new moms currently enrolled in our services. The Newborn Gift Basket included, but was not limited to, a bassinet, car seat, clothes, shower kit, Vaseline, rash cream, diapers, nail clippers, bottles, an electric swing, hats, bibs, towels, blankets, and a walker. Mr. Shah, who along with his wife were blessed with a baby boy in mid-April, appreciated the newborn gift basket and said “It is beyond my expectation and I am so surprised to welcome my new baby home with such amazing gifts.”
*If you are interested in getting your group or organization involved with LSSNCA during this time, please reach out to Dana Lea, firstname.lastname@example.org. You can sign up for remote volunteer activities using this form and donate to our Emergency Assistance Fund here. Thank you to all of our community partners and individual donors and volunteers for being our LSS heroes!