Explore frequently asked questions (FAQs) about our Family Services programs by clicking a category or program of interest below or continue scrolling the page to see all FAQs.
What is Hello Neighbor's Mentorship Program?
Hello Neighbor’s mentorship program matches recently resettled refugee and immigrant families with local individuals, couples and families to help refugees become more confident and comfortable in their new lives.
Why mentor a refugee family?
A mentor is part advocate, part ally, and part friend. Mentors are matched 1-1 with a refugee family to help support them in their new lives in Pittsburgh. This includes 1-1 time with the family and activities like going to a museum, visiting a local library, and cooking side by side in each other’s homes. Mentors also step in to help with practical and important integration activities like signing kids up for preschool, helping mentees find new apartments or job opportunities, or practicing daily life skills like how to read and process mail and how to figure out new bus routes. The Hello Neighbor team will work with you on a customized set of goals and activities you can do together.
Refugee resettlement agencies typically provide direct services to refugee families for a three-month resettlement period. After those first 90 days, many refugees continue to find themselves challenged with adjusting to their new lives. That’s where Hello Neighbor steps in. The refugee families in our program have been in the U.S. between six months and five years. You serve as a mentor, but also as a positive role model and friend. In return, you and your family will experience cultural exchange and potentially build a life long relationship.
Can I be a mentor if I live outside of the Greater Pittsburgh area?
Unfortunately at this time, our current program is limited to the Greater Pittsburgh area.
What is expected of a Hello Neighbor Mentor?
The expectation is that you will spend 10 hours per month with your mentee family for the duration of the six month program. We do require that you track your time in our custom-built (and mobile friendly!) activity tracker. We understand that sometimes life gets busy so we’ll work with you in advance to create the right cadence for your interactions with the refugee family. There are also (optional) events and activities that we put together for the program and in the community where everyone can get together.
What is the process to become a mentor?
The first step towards becoming a mentor is to submit your application. Our program operates using a cohort model, which means we run an entire six-month program from start to finish as a group and then start recruitment and training for the next class. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis for our next cohort. Visit our Mentorship page for the latest dates and details on upcoming cohorts.
When we are ready to launch a new cohort, we will review applications, invite potential mentors to group interviews, and finally extend offers to be part of the next cohort. Pending your acceptance there is a mandatory orientation and you will be asked to obtain a state-required background check (these are easy to get and we can help you do it). Babies and children are welcome to attend every step of the way. At orientation we do offer childcare. After orientation, we schedule an in-home introduction for you, the mentee family, an interpreter (if needed) and staff member. We all spend time together to make sure it's a good match. After that you are off and running!
How do you decide who to match me with?
We thoughtfully match prospective mentors and mentees based on geographic proximity, family size and composition (children who are close in age), interests, hobbies, and personality. We incorporate interviews with potential mentors and potential mentee families as well as availability of both parties to make sure there is compatibility around spending time together!
How do refugees and immigrants find out about Hello Neighbor?
Refugees and immigrants are referred to Hello Neighbor by refugee families from our earlier cohorts, our community-based interpreters, other community members, and local agencies that also serve refugees and immigrants. We serve refugee and immigrant families from 17 different countries and are always meeting new families that would like to become involved! The refugee and immigrant mentee application process is just as detailed as it is for the mentors, including a mandatory orientation.
If you know a refugee or immigrant who would be a good fit for our program, you can nominate them here.
What clearances and background information is required?
We require state-mandated clearances for working with or being around children. This includes a Child Abuse History Clearance through the Department of Human Services and a Report of Criminal History from the Pennsylvania State Police. You will also be required to provide your car insurance information and proof of your driving record. Pending your acceptance into the program, we’ll walk you through all of the necessary clearances.
Is there a cost to participating in the program?
Yes. There is a cost of $200 for the program for mentors. This equates to about $35 per month for the six month program. This is a flat cost regardless of family size. The fee covers orientation and training materials and ongoing case management support for your match. The total cost to us is far greater than this program fee, but this helps us operate and run Hello Neighbor. In addition to the time with your match, we provide educational opportunities to learn more about refugee issues and group events and outings at no additional cost to you. You are not just volunteering, you are gaining practical and valuable skills that will benefit you in your personal and professional life.
What else can you tell me about the mentorship program?
Can I still apply if…
I have a vacation planned during the program?
Yes! If you are going away for more than two weeks just let us know in advance and we can discuss it with you further.
I wasn't born in America?
Yes! If you were born somewhere else or are not originally from Pittsburgh you are welcome to apply. Your life experiences are incredibly valuable to what we are building in this community.
I am a single individual or we are a couple without children?
Yes! Many of our successful mentors have been individuals or couples without kids. Just note that many of our refugee families have lots of children, so you may be matched with a family of four or even seven!
I want to apply with my partner, spouse, or family. Is that okay?
Yes! We encourage families of all ages to apply. Our first cohort had 88 kids under the age of 18 across the mentor and mentee families. We’ve also had young couples with no kids all the way through to retirees. We are multi-generational at every turn. We do require a main point of contact within each family.
What if I cannot afford the program cost?
If you are interested but can't afford the program costs we encourage you to still apply and reach out to our team. We have scholarships available and will work with you to find a solution that fits your needs.
How does Mentorship work during COVID-19?
Our Mentorship program is high-touch, so it is operating in-person even during COVID-19. We are taking as many precautions as possible to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including limiting the sizes of our large events, changing locations of events, and requiring masks at all of our indoor gatherings. In order to participate you do need to be comfortable being indoors (masked) with others. If this doesn’t describe you right now we are happy to consider you for a future cohort, when we are out of the pandemic.
I don't have time to be a mentor but I want to support refugees. How else can I help?
There are many other ways to get involved with Hello Neighbor outside of mentorship. If you’re interested in working directly with refugees and immigrants, you can check out other opportunities within our Family Services programs, such as becoming a peer tutor or dedicated mom-to-mom support volunteer. Visit our Get Involved page to explore other opportunities to volunteer with Hello Neighbor.
Smart Start FAQs
Do I need to be a mother to be a volunteer?
No! You must have experience with pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum, but it does not have to be your own.
How long does the Smart Start program last?
Once you’re matched with your mom, you will spend six months with her throughout the program. Once those six months come to an end, you can either choose to close your relationship officially or renew for another three months. After nine months, all relationships will close. Afterwards, volunteers can choose to be rematched with another mom, take a break, or end all involvement with Smart Start.
Do I need to live in Pittsburgh to support a mom in Smart Start?
Yes, at this time, all Smart Start moms that we serve are in Allegheny County, so volunteers must also live in Allegheny County or the Greater Pittsburgh Area.
What is expected of a Smart Start volunteer?
Smart Start volunteers are expected to spend 1-2 hours per week with their mom, through phone calls, texts, and in person visits over the six months. Volunteers are required to track their time with their mom plus topics discussed through a form we create specifically for you.
How do you decide which mom to match me with?
We thoughtfully match each volunteer and mom pair based on many factors including location, family age and size, interests, and personality. We make sure to interview both parties so that we can best make that decision!
What is my role as a Smart Start volunteer?
Volunteers are there to support their mom through pregnancy and postpartum. Specifically, helping them navigate the U.S. healthcare system, connecting them to resources, and holding space for social-emotional support.
Study Buddy FAQs
Who is eligible to be a tutor?
Our tutors generally meet the following requirements: individuals between 16-30 years of age, current students (undergraduates, graduates), or recent graduates with tutoring/teaching experience.
We will require that all tutors submit PA clearances: Act 33 Child Abuse Clearance and Act 34 Criminal Record Check.
Who is eligible to receive tutoring support?
All immigrant and refugee students (grades 6-12) who reside in Allegheny County, PA are eligible to receive tutoring support through Study Buddy.
How do students and tutors communicate?
A Hello Neighbor staff member will coordinate initial introductions and session times between students and tutors. Study Buddy sessions occur within one large Zoom meeting and the 1-1 portion of the session will occur in a Zoom Breakout Room.
NOTE: Students and Tutors will be given the option to share contact information, but this is not required and Tutors are not obligated to reply to questions outside of the scheduled tutoring hours.
What is my role as a tutor?
Tutors are asked to work with immigrant and refugee students on homework and school assignments, improving communication with teachers, goal setting, organizational skills, and providing subject-specific help as needed.
How long does the Study Buddy program last?
Study Buddy is a semester-long commitment. The Fall semester starts in September and concludes in December and the Spring semester starts in January and concludes in June. Both tutors and students are encouraged to renew their commitment after each semester.
Do I need to live in Pittsburgh to be a tutor?
No, you do not have to be local to be a tutor. This is the first Hello Neighbor opportunity open to people living outside of Pittsburgh and we are extremely excited to extend the opportunity to serve our community to those around the U.S. That being said, we will be operating using EST, so be sure to note any potential time differences.
Do I need to have prior tutoring experience?
You do not need to have prior experience tutoring, but preference will be given to individuals who have worked with immigrant and/or refugee youth and/or tutored previously. If you’re not selected to tutor a student right away, don’t worry! We’re continuing to match students and tutors as we receive more applications from immigrant and refugee families.
Is Study Buddy fully remote?
Our Study Buddy program is virtual, with the exception of a handful of in-person gatherings each semester where we visit attractions around the city. The gatherings are optional and you are not required to attend to be a Study Buddy tutor. However, they are a great way to get to know your fellow tutors and students in the Study Buddy program!
I'd love for Hello Neighbor to exist where I live. Is that an option?
If you are interested in bringing Hello Neighbor to your city, please fill out this quick survey and let’s start a conversation!
Can I make a donation to support your work?
Thank you for asking! You can make a donation here or if you'd like to contact us regarding a corporate gift, corporate match or to become a founding partner, please email our Founder and CEO, Sloane Davidson, at email@example.com
You can also mail a check to us, made out to "Hello Neighbor" to:
Hello Neighbor 6587 Hamilton Ave., #1E, Pittsburgh, PA 15206