Hello Neighbor is a new kind of mentorship program where neighbors, people like you, will be matched with refugee families. For this initial pilot program, the program is limited to the Pittsburgh-area only. We are looking to expand in 2018. Sign up for our newsletter to stay in touch.
What is the role of a mentor?
The goal of a mentor is to be a friend to a refugee family and help them integrate into Pittsburgh and their new lives. As a mentor, your role will be built upon each refugee family’s specific needs. This will include one-on-one time with the family and could include activities like going to a museum, visiting a local library, and cooking side by side in each other’s homes. We are also looking for the mentors 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 how to read and process mail, how to look for expiration dates on food items, among other things. These are just initial ideas, we’ll work with you to create a work plan and goals for your time together.
When will the application launch?
The application will be live from March 27th until April 9th. There will be 2 information sessions. The first was in-person on Wednesday, March 29th, and the second was online on Sunday, April 2nd. The application is rolling, we will process applications as they are submitted and be in touch with potential mentors about next steps.
Why mentor a refugee family?
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 90-days. After three months, a lot of refugees find themselves challenged with continuing to adjust to their new lives. Often times it is difficult for refugees to become acquainted and integrated with aspects of American life. You would serve as a positive role model and friend and could build a life long relationship, while receiving exposure to new cultures and gaining fulfillment in helping people progress.
How do I become a mentor?
The first step is to submit your application (launching March 27th). Hello Neighbor will then review all applications, interview potential mentors and refugee families, and make matches. If you are matched with a refugee family, you will be required to attend an orientation, obtain necessary clearances, undergo a background check, provide car insurance information, and provide proof of your driving record. Don't worry we will help you every step of the way.
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.
What is the time commitment for this program?
The time commitment to be a mentor is four months, beginning on June 1st. There is a required orientation on Saturday, May 20th. Introductions between matches and refugee families will take place the weeks of May 22nd and May 29th based on everyone’s schedule. We’ll work with both sides to make sure the match is a good fit! Hello Neighbor is asking for one quality interaction a week with a refugee family throughout the duration of the program. 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. We’ll cover all of this during info sessions and the orientation. There will be lots of (optional) opportunities for everyone in the program to get together including potluck dinners, event nights and activities around the city.
How will refugees find out about this program?
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 also have been interviewing and working with refugees on a daily basis and there is a great word of mouth spreading within the refugee communities which we’re really excited about! Since refugees are being referred to us from local agencies, we’ll also be reviewing their backgrounds for necessary clearances and background information. A refugee mentee application launching on the same day as the mentor application.
What kinds of refugees will be part of this program?
Pittsburgh’s refugee population mostly consists of refugees from Bhutan, Burma, Somalia, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. Our program will aim to match refugees from these groups. We are focused on working with refugees who have been in Pittsburgh a minimum of 3 months up to 5 years.
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 standard across the board in situations where you’ll potentially be working with 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. This is for a few reasons. First, we need your help to run these programs. Second, we are building a community with educational components where you will be able to become a Refugee Advocate. We are offering an orientation and initial summit at the beginning of the program with incredible programming. We will be sending out policy briefs and information on the global refugee crisis. You are not just volunteering, you are gaining practical and valuable skills that will benefit you in your personal and professional life. Our goal is for your to gain as much as you get.
How much does it cost?
After successfully applying to the program, being accepted and obtaining the necessary clearances, there is a $200 program fee. This can be paid upfront or in two equal payments. The total cost to produce this program and run as an organization is far greater than this program fee so we very much appreciate your contributions.
Where does this money go?
The costs associated with the program go towards obtaining security clearances, operations like supporting our team, building out and producing programming, creating community events, creating and producing marketing materials, providing mentors with assistance, and 30% will go towards the Refugee Assistance Fund.
What is the Refugee Assistance Fund?
Final details for the Refugee Assistance Fund are coming together now. The goal of this fund to to help families attain greater independence and self-sufficiency. This will include, but is not limited to, child care while a parent goes to a job interview, skill development workshops, and job training. We follow a model of radical transparency which means we will be showing our financials and being transparent about how these funds are directly and 100% supporting refugees.
What else can you tell me about the mentorship program?
Hello Neighbor is built on a cohort model. That means that you are applying to be part of a class. We think this is important because often when volunteering it can be isolating. We want you to get to know the other mentors and the other refugees families. We see great value in bringing everyone together and also in providing you with a beginning, middle and end to the program. We will be working with you and checking in throughout the 4 months to provide you value-added guidance on your goals and also providing free and discount tickets to events and activities around the city.
Can I still apply if…
I have a vacation planned for this summer?
The short answer is yes. It is summer afterall. If you are going away for 1-2 weeks or have a few business trips that isn’t an issue. If you think it’s going to be more time than that, use your discretion.
I wasn’t born in America?
Yes of course! We’ve tried hard to talk about this program in terms of anyone who want to mentor and the refugees and immigrants who will receive mentorship. If you were born somewhere else, or are not originally from Pittsburgh you are still eligible to apply and we encourage you to apply because your life experiences are really 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 kids to apply to go through the program together. However, we ask that you have a primary contact in your family both for connecting with us at Hello Neighbor and for contacting the family and scheduling visits.
I want to apply but I don’t have $200.
If you really want to be in the program but can’t afford the program costs, please consider crowdfunding through a site like GoFundMe. Unfortunately at this time we can’t offer a sliding scale or scholarships to apply towards the program costs.
Can I make a donation to support your work?
Thank you for asking! We are currently in the process of setting up a crowdfund campaign and gaining a fiscal sponsor. We’ll have an update soon on how to support us financially. If you’d like to make a significant contribution or become a founding partner, please email our Founder and CEO, Sloane Davidson, at email@example.com.