Hello Neighbor Network Spotlight: Kristen Bloom

Meet Kristen Bloom: Hello Neighbor Network Partner and Founder of Refugee Assistance Alliance

April 30, 2020

With nine moves in the last fourteen years, Kristen Bloom knows how hard it is to start over in a new place. The former Peace Corps volunteer started her organization, Refugee Assistance Alliance, when she herself had been looking for opportunities to engage in her new community of Miami. After attending a Syrian Supper Club dinner and volunteering to teach English to a new refugee family, Kristen realized there was a real need of post-resettlement support for refugees coming to South Florida from non-Spanish or Creole-speaking counties.

In 2017, Kristen created Refugee Assistance Alliance to help families navigate the complexities of settling into their new community. The nonprofit organization assists families by providing English instruction, homework tutoring for school children, referral services, special cultural activities, and most importantly, friends to turn to. Along with almost 90 volunteers, Refugee Assistance Alliance has helped around 100 refugees adapt and thrive in their new homes.

Q&A

Your name:
Kristen Bloom

Name of Your organization:
Refugee Assistance Alliance

Location of Your organization:
Miami, FL

What communities does your organization serve?
We serve refugees from countries such as Syria, Iraq, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Pakistan, Palestine, and Myanmar – refugees whom we define as “underserved” because, unlike refugees from Central and South America, there is little to no official support post-resettlement for people who do not speak Spanish or Creole. We believe all refugees deserve a warm welcome and support network as they work towards self-sufficiency, and we are striving to create that network for the families in our program.

What are you most excited for in 2020?
Refugee Assistance Alliance is a little over two years old. We have built a solid foundation and have raised enough money to survive thus far – an accomplishment of which we are very proud! In 2020, we are excited to be working towards building financial stability – to be an organization that not only survives, but one that thrives and continues to offer services long into the future to our most vulnerable neighbors.

How has your organization benefited from the Hello Neighbor Network? The Hello Neighbor Network partners have been an invaluable resource thus far in offering guidance and advice on best practices, policies and procedures, and helping to answer tough questions. However, the biggest benefit from the Hello Neighbor Network has undoubtedly been the incredible support network we have gained. Many of us are the only organizations in our area (or state!) offering assistance to our clients, which is both exhilarating and overwhelming!

Just as our refugee families often feel isolated in their new homes, and unclear of the path forward, this work can also feel isolating and unclear. Each of the incredible women who founded the organizations in this network took a giant leap of faith into the unknown and had the courage to start organizations for which there was no blueprint. Meeting these women for the first time last year gave me an incredible feeling of relief for I knew I would no longer be working in a silo. These were the women I had been looking for since day one. It’s true that there is strength in numbers, and I am proud to join together with these women to have a more powerful voice about the importance of welcoming refugees and improving post-resettlement assistance nationwide.

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