What is Hello Neighbor?

Hello Neighbor is a new kind of mentorship program where neighbors, people like you, will be matched with refugee families. Our current program is for the Pittsburgh-area only. Are you looking for volunteer opportunities outside of the formal mentorship program? Sign up using this form and we'll be in touch about upcoming opportunities. We are looking to expand in 2018. If you are interested in bringing Hello Neighbor to your city, please fill out this quick survey.

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 pre-school or summer camp, help finding new apartments or job opportunities or daily life skills like how to read and process mail, how to look for expiration dates on food items, and how to figure out new bus routes. The Hello Neighbor Program Manager will work with you on a customized set of goals and activities you can do together.

While refugee resettlement agencies provide direct services to refugee families, many refugees face challenges of cultural adjustment and integration into life in the United States. The initial period of adjustment is typically 90 days. After three months, a lot of refugees find themselves challenged with continuing to adjust to their new lives. That's where Hello Neighbor steps in. The refugee families in our program have been in the U.S. between 6 months and 7 years. You serve as a mentor but also as a positive role model and friend. In return, you will experience cultural exchange learning about their culture, create an opportunity that is for your entire family and potentially building a life long relationship.

What is expected of the Hello Neighbor Mentor?

The official dates of the program are March - June, 2018. The expectation is that you will have one quality interaction per week with your mentee family, this totals to around 10 hours a month. 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.

How do I apply?

The first step towards becoming a mentor is to submit your application (application is available from November 6th - November 19th). Our program is operated on a cohort model. That means we run an entire program through as a group and then start recruitment and training for the next class.

After applications close, 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 have to obtain a state-required background check (don't worry we can help). 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 and someone from Hello Neighbor (almost always Sloane) and we all spend time together to make sure it's a good match. After that you are off and running!

Key Dates:

  • November 6, 2017: Applications available
  • November 9th, 2017: Mentorship In-Person Information Session
  • November 13, 2017: Mentorship Online Information Session
  • November 19, 2017 Application closes at 11:59PM EST
  • December: Second round applicants asked to reserve a group interview time
  • January 6, 2018 and January 20, 2018: Mentor Group Interviews
  • February 3, 2018: Mentee Orientation
  • February 10, 2018: Mentor Orientation
  • February 11-28, 2018: In-Home Introductions
  • March 1, 2018: Program begins

What does the match process look like?

The matches will begin as a thoughtful process based on the application, where Hello Neighbor will look at geographic proximity (do you live in the same neighborhood as a refugee family), family size and composition (do you have children that are close in age to a refugee family), interests and hobbies, etc. The match process will also include interviews with both potential mentors and refugee families. Also taken into consideration will be if a potential mentor has experience in working with refugees or underserved populations, as some refugee families might need special attention. We will also be looking at availability of both sides to make sure there is compatibility around spending time together.

How will refugees find out about this program? What kinds of refugees will be part of this program?

Pittsburgh's refugee population consists of refugees from Bhutan, Myanmar, Somalia, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. Our program had families from 7 of those countries for the first cohort. The requirement is that they have been in the United States a minimum of 6 months up to a maximum of 7 years. About 60% of our first cohort mentees lived in the South Hills, 20% on the Northside and 20% in the East End.

We are fortunate enough to have partners on board at the local refugee resettlement agencies and other local service providers that are referring refugees families to our program. We will also be reviewing their backgrounds for necessary clearances and background information. A refugee mentee application process is just as detailed as it is for the mentors including a mandatory orientation.

What clearances and background information is required?

Pending your acceptance into the program, we'll walk you through all of the necessary clearances. What we are asking for is state-mandated for working with or being around children. These will include a Child Abuse History Clearance through the Department of Human Services,a report of criminal history from the Pennsylvania State Police and a Federal Background Check. You will also be required to provide your car insurance information and proof of your driving record.

Is there a cost to be a part of this program?

Yes. There is a cost of $200 for the program. This equates to $50 per month for the four month program. This is a flat cost regardless of family size. The total cost to us is far greater than this program fee, but this helps us operate and run this program. In addition, we have built-in educational components where you (and your family) will be trained to become a Refugee Advocates culminating with a graduation at the end of the program. Last, we offer 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?

There is so much more to share! The first class was a big success. We know that because they told us! And maybe you heard about this program from someone who was involved or read about it in the media. We are still growing and learning, but this is something really exciting and new that you can be a part of. We are with you every step of the way, ask an alumni, if you have questions, want to talk something through, need help identifying a resource or get ideas for what to do, we are here to help.

Can I still apply if…

I have a vacation planned during the program?

Yes! If you are going away for more than 2 weeks, mark that in your application 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 want to apply with my partner, spouse or family, is that ok?

Yes! We encourage families of all ages to apply. Our last cohort had 88 kids under the age of 18 across the mentor and mentee families ranging from 0 (born over the summer!) to 25. We 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.

I want to apply but I don't know if I can afford it?

If you really want to be in the program but can't afford the program costs ($200 single, $300 couple, $400 family), we encourage you to still apply. We will make it work together. In the last cohort 100% of acceptances enrolled in the program. There are options like scholarships and also we could help you with a crowdfunding campaign.

Can I make a donation to support your work?

Thank you for asking! We are currently fiscally sponsored by New Sun Rising as we work on our application to be an independent 501c3. You can make a donation here or if you'd like to contact us regarding a corporate gift or corporate match or to become a founding partner, please email our Founder and CEO, Sloane Davidson, at sloane@helloneighbor.io.

You can also mail a check mail out to "New Sun Rising" with "Hello Neighbor" in the notes section to:

Hello Neighbor
100 S Commons, Suite 102
Pittsburgh, PA 15212

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