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Resettling in NY during a pandemic

COVID-19 certainly slowed refugee arrivals to the US, as it has slowed much else, but IRC in NY staff continued to work diligently to welcome new arrivals in unprecedented circumstances. As always, community volunteers and organizations proved essential to the resettlement process. Nine refugee families from Central and South America, Afghanistan, and Syria arrived in New York City and Long Island since the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak in New York this spring. These families were resettled near family and friends with great hopes of a fruitful future. Hailing from Central and South America, Afghanistan, and Syria, newly arrived families faced remarkable challenges to integration due to COVID-19, as our public and social systems, staff, and supporters all adjusted to safety precautions and virtual service delivery. While much of IRC’s programming remains remote for the safety of clients and staff, IRC in NY has worked tirelessly to ensure that the families are welcomed and provided with the support they need to feel comfortable in their new lives despite the constraints of the pandemic. 

Donated items offset costs for new arrivals, which has proven vital during COVID-19 pressures on early employment sectors. Photo: A. L. Slaughter/IRC.

Resettled refugees receive federal assistance upon arrival, but it is important to stretch these dollars as far as possible to alleviate stressors during their early months in the US. This is most easily achieved through donated furnishings for their new homes, as furniture and necessities can prove costly in any context. As the job market weakened in New York City in reaction to COVID-19, especially in business sectors friendliest to newcomers, donated times were crucial to helping families with expenses until employment opportunities were available.  

With many of IRC in NY’s furniture partners operating at a limited capacity as New York City sought to control the outbreak,, IRC in NY diversified options by leveraging the undaunted spirit of local volunteers and community groups. Most recently, IRC in NY partnered with The Presbyterian Church of Garden City under the leadership of Reverend Wanda Lawry Hughes. Mobilizing her congregation, community members, and friends to collect donations ranging from furniture to boxes of toys, Pastor Wanda and her team even delivered the donations the to five families across the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Long Island, which made a huge impact on IRC staff’s ability to move clients into their new homes. The generosity of Pastor Wanda’s congregration alleviated financial, logistical and safety concerns in settling newly arrived families. COVID-19 has proven how interconnected our communities are, and the IRC in NY is grateful for such a meaningful partnership in these difficult days! 

When Rebeca and her one-and- a half year old daughter Yarelyn, refugees from El Salvador, were reunited with Rebeca’s parents in Long Island, IRC in NY staff helped Rebeca find an apartment that was large enough for the family of four. As they prepared to move, Pastor Wanda’s congregation provided the family with bedding, dressers, side tables, school supplies, winter clothes, a booster seat, and toys. Every donation helped Rebeca stretch the limited federal funds provided to newly arrived refugees. “Thank you for everything you have done for my daughter, we are so thankful and will always appreciate it,” Rebeca’s mother wrote about Pastor Wanda’s congregation’s vital support.  

Furniture and kitchen goods are always helpful, but at home learning supplies are much appreciated during quarantine and stay at home periods! Photo: A. L. Slaughter/IRC.

Despite Pastor Wanda’s responsibilities within her home and congregation, Pastor Wanda has treated the clients of IRC as her own. When Flor, another single mother from El Salvador arrived to Glen Cove only a few weeks after Rebeca’s arrival, Pastor Wanda (yet again) rallied her team to collect items for Flor and her daughter Hailey, keeping the particular needs and personalized requests of the family in mind. Gifted with a high chair, school supplies, warm clothes, and other essentials, Flor saved her funds from arrival to put towards rent, thanks to these vital in-kind contributions. 

The IRC in NY’s resettlement team is so thankful for the tireless support of Pastor Wanda, her congregation, and the community volunteers whose efforts during the past eight months have helped foster hope and positivity in the early days of refugees’ transition to New York. While IRC is already eagerly preparing its programs and staff to welcome an increased number of incoming refugee families under the Biden administration, community support and volunteers will be even more critical to positioning new arrivals for success here in New York. The IRC in NY looks forward to meeting this challenge with you! 

 Interested in supporting resettlement in New York? Click here to donate or VolunteerNY [at] rescue.org (subject: Assisting%20with%20Resettlement%20-%20In-Kind%20Donation%20or%20Volunteering) (here to contact staff) about support opportunities.