The need - The Rotary Club of the Pelhams became aware of the increased needs of resettled refugees due to the COVID-19 pandemic from Hearts and Homes for Refugees, a volunteer-driven, refugee-serving organization in Westchester County, NY. Since 2016, more than 2,000 volunteers have been welcoming new arrivals and providing assistance to resettled refugees, asylees and asylum-seekers. Hearts and Homes mission is to welcome the stranger seeking refuge. To accomplish this on as large a scale as possible, Hearts and Homes convenes, educates and motivates volunteers, offering opportunities to work tirelessly for this core American value in their own communities. To create inclusive communities, Hearts and Homes harnesses the goodwill of hundreds of people and creates strategic partnerships to engage community support on behalf of refugees, with an added benefit of fostering greater cross-cultural awareness and understanding of refugees. These new neighbors left family, friends, social networks and most belongings behind when they were forced to flee home. Hearts and Homes offers friendship, new networks and financial support, helping refugees re-establish their lives in safety and with dignity. The Rotary Club of the Pelhams became one of the volunteer partners recently, supporting Hearts and Homes COVID food security program.
The Project - Once schools went virtual in March due to COVID-19, Hearts and Homes ramped up its educational support to help the refugee families with the at-home learning. They reached out and surveyed all the resettled families, and as a result determined the needs for over 18 refugee families with over 42 school-aged children, a number that continues to grow. The families served, often live in one- and two-bedroom apartments and some have parents working from home, and need to set up at-home learning centers in their limited spaces. Needed at-home learning devices include lap tops; noise-canceling headphones with mics; printers & ink; and good internet service; as well as more school supplies and text books for college students. If our Club receives the matching grant for $5,000 Hearts and Homes' Helping Hands Program Administrator will assign an appropriate number of families to the Rotary Club of the Pelhams to purchase the needed equipment and services to set up the in-home learning center. Our Club members will deliver or set up delivery of the items and then check back with the refugee family about the school supplies that need replenishing. In addition to working directly with the refugee family, Club members will be involved in fund-raising activities for our Club's matching $2500. We are in the early stages of sponsoring a new Interact Club for Pelham Schools and hope to get the students involved with our fund-raising activities. Once our Club learns we are accepted for this matching grant, we will contact Hearts and Homes and get our family assignments and get to work filling the needs with completion no later than May 31, 2021, as required.