Hello Neighbor Network Inaugural Convening

The first national leadership cohort of the Hello Neighbor Network convened for the first time in Pittsburgh this November

December 19, 2019

The Hello Neighbor Network recently completed its inaugural convening, inviting Executive Directors from eight refugee support organizations across the country to gather together in Pittsburgh from November 13th-15th. Leading up to the convening, each leader was tasked with generating ideas and scaling resources to help mitigate the polarization gap most refugee families are facing in communities across the nation.

The network was founded and created by Hello Neighbor Founder Sloane Davidson after discovering that many refugee-focused grassroots organizations are operating in isolation without an outlet for collaboration or a supportive peer network. The idea behind the Hello Neighbor Network is to unite organizations that are providing critical refugee support in their communities across the country. Our goal is that this Network will have a significant impact on the participants who will then go on to positively impact the communities they serve. The cohort will be responsible for generating new ideas and sharing resources that help combat polarization and increase inclusiveness for refugees in communities across the nation.

The first cohort includes the following organizations: Dwell Mobile (Mobile), Heartfelt Tidbits (Cincinnati), Hearts and Homes for Refugees (Westchester County, NY), Homes Not Borders (District of Columbia), International Neighbors (Charlottesville), Miry’s List (Los Angeles), Refugee Assistance Alliance (Miami), and Soft Landing Missoula (Missoula).

The agenda for the convening was decided through collaboration with all eight networks. Each participant was able to give an impact presentation on one of the strengths of their organization. Topics included ESL & citizenship programs, attracting and keeping volunteers, cross-cultural relationship building, online services, in-home tutoring and homework assistance, providing short-term support for refugees, food-based programming, and community partnerships.

“convening”

We kicked-off the morning with a presentation by Gisele Fetterman, the Second Lady of PA and founder of 412 Food Rescue and Free Store 15104. Gisele shared her story of fleeing Brazil and being told to “be invisible” once arriving in the U.S. Now, the Second Lady of PA and spokesperson for community action, Gisele is anything but invisible. And standing on a stage before eight founders of organizations fighting to bring visibility and opportunity to immigrants and refugees in their cities across the U.S., she was a radiant light and inspiration to all.

After impact presentations from all eight participants, the group engaged in a presentation from Rachel Vinciguerra, who led our research study, on program evaluation where they were asked to do a number of exercises around Theory of Change. Rachel tackled a huge topic and made it tangible and easy for everyone to understand in a limited amount of time. Piper Creative did a segment on effective storytelling. Participants were able to take headshots and promotional videos, and better understand the importance of social media platforms such as linkedin. During the day we also heard from Hello Neighbor mentee and City of Asylum Resident Writer, Tuhin Das. He shared his story and poetry and left everyone in awe of his work and resilience fighting against discrimination and the suppression of liberal voices.

Outside of the convening, participants enjoyed meals together at The Vandal, Khalil’s Middle Eastern Restaurant, and Pamela’s Diner where they shared successes and challenges and came away feeling empowered to dream big. More importantly, there was a sense of celebration for what everyone has accomplished so far. The group also got to take a ride around Pittsburgh in Molly’s Trolleys and learn more about the city. As time together came to an end, everyone left with the feeling that they had created something everlasting, a network of strong women, friends, and colleagues that could make a true impact through collaboration.

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Testimonials

“It feels amazing to see yourself in other people that you so quickly come to know and admire as your own.” - Mary Poole, Soft Landings Missoula

“It was amazing how comfortable we all felt with one another from the minute we met. Having moved nine times in 14 years, I can tell you that is RARE and something I value tremendously. I loved the authenticity I felt from each of you.” - Kristen Bloom, Refugee Assistance Alliance

“Our time together helped me to gain focus for the future of International Neighbors, Inc.!” - Kari Miller, International Neighbors

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