Current Network Members

Learn about the current Network members, supporting refugees and immigrants across the nation.

Meet The 2021 Fellows!

Alain Mentha, Welcome Home Jersey City (Jersey City, New Jersey)

Read about Welcome Home Jersey City.

Alain Mentha had no special training before he began working with refugees, having spent most of his working life in the field of academic book publishing. But like many, he was shocked and moved by the image of Alan Kurdi, the Syrian boy who drowned off the coast of Turkey, trying to reach Greece. He began volunteering to help refugees through his synagogue, and then with the local refugee resettlement agency. When it became clear how little in the way of resources the agency could extend to recently resettled families, a group of like-minded volunteers decided to form Welcome Home, which provides additional support.

Andrea Cramer, Neighbor to Neighbor (South Bend, Indiana)

Read about Neighbor to Neighbor.

Andrea is founder and executive director of Neighbor to Neighbor in South Bend, Indiana. With a background in TESOL, she has previously lived and worked in Illinois, Texas, and Michigan, where she taught ENL at Malcolm X College, McLennan Community College, and in public schools. Having experienced the gift of welcome across the country, Andrea is passionate about passing on that gift of welcome in South Bend, where she lives with her husband, David, and their two children.

Ann McGlynn, Tapestry Farms (Davenport, Iowa)

Read about Tapestry Farms.

Ann McGlynn is the founder and executive director of Tapestry Farms, an urban farm system that invests in refugees, reconnecting with and nourishing land so all may be abundantly fed. Her studies include a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master of business administration from the University of Iowa. Home is now in the city of Davenport, Iowa, but she grew up on a small family farm outside of DeWitt, Iowa. Ann connects refugees and neighbors in a shared hope of joyful, thriving, healthy lives, and finding home once again.

Betsy Bonilla Jimenez Hurst, HOLA Lakeway (Morristown, Tennessee)

Read about HOLA Lakeway.

Mrs. Hurst was born and grew up in San Jose, Costa Rica. She holds a B.S. in Management of Nonprofit Organizations and an M.S. in Business Administration/Leadership, both from Johnson University. She has also a background in elementary education (K-6). She has around 18 years of experience managing nonprofits. Betsy joined the board of directors for HOLA Lakeway in 2015 and in 2020 they offered her the Executive Director position. Her passion is her community. My gente es la pasión de mi trabajo!

Christy Anderson, Claremont Canopy (Claremont, California)

Read about Claremont Canopy.

Christy is the Founder and Executive Director of Claremont Canopy. A Minnesota native, she began working with the local refugee population in California in 2016 and after a few months, she saw the need for a broader organization to act as a canopy for the smaller organizations that work with refugees. She used her network and social media to spread the mission of Canopy, which is to network on behalf of the Canopy families to connect them with organizations and resources that will create opportunities to go from surviving to thriving in their new country. Her efforts started with one family and an Amazon wish list on her personal Facebook page. Today Canopy serves over 40 families and is 501c3 nonprofit organization.

Egide Irambona, SODELA (Solidarity Development and Light Association) (Knoxville, Tennessee)

Read about SODELA.

Fellow bio coming soon!

Fereshteh Ganjavi, Elena’s Light (New Haven, Connecticut)

Read about Elena’s Light.

Fellow bio coming soon!

Jin-Ya Huang, Break Bread, Break Borders (Dallas, Texas)

Read about Break Bread, Break Borders.

Break Bread, Break Borders is a social enterprise developing a culinary training program to help refugee women from war torn countries find food service job opportunities by sharing their stories and culture through food. Jin-Ya Huang founded BBBB in 2017 to honor her late mother’s legacy — chef, restaurateur, and community leader Margaret Huang. Through food, culture, and powerful storytelling, we break bread with the community and break down borders at the same time.

Kirsta Benedetti, Riverview International Center (Columbus, Ohio)

Read about Riverview International Center.

Kirsta Benedetti founded the Riverview International Center in 2015 after moving home from Egypt with a desire to extend the same warm welcome to New Americans that she received as a foreigner in Egypt. Kirsta has been amazed at how the RIC has grown over the years and honored to be a part of such a vibrant community as Riverview Drive.

Laura Erickson, Ladies Let’s Talk (Austin, Texas)

Read about Ladies Let’s Talk.

For the last five years, Laura has dedicated herself to identifying and solving critical gaps in the refugee resettlement process. This led her to start Ladies Let’s Talk as well as Reboot for Good, an organization focused on providing laptops to newly arrived refugee families, and First Step in ATX, an online community resource directory specifically geared towards refugees. Prior to Ladies Let’s Talk, Laura was the co-founder and Board President of Corrales International School and was on the start-up teams for two healthcare companies. A native South Dakotan, she now calls Austin, Texas, home. She holds a civil engineering degree from South Dakota School of Mines & Technology and is currently a certified ESL teacher.

Leah Hargrove, Global Neighbors (Bismarck, North Dakota)

Read about Global Neighbors.

After moving with her family to Bismarck, ND in 2014, Leah saw a need in central North Dakota for immigrant-focused services that would also impact the local community. In 2015, she and a dedicated volunteer board founded Global Neighbors, a one-on-one mentorship program that partners New Americans with local residents to share language, culture, and friendship. As Bismarck’s immigrant population grew, so did negative national rhetoric. Leah began to use her role as Director at Global Neighbors and position in the community to promote positive interactions between newcomer and host. In 2018, Leah was honored with the City of Bismarck’s Humanitarian of the Year Award. She is a North Dakota Change Network alumna and now a Hello Neighbor Network Fellow.

Lydia Yousief, Elmahaba Center (Nashville, Tennessee)

Read about Elmahaba Center.

Lydia Yousief is the Director and one of the founders of Elmahaba Center. She graduated in 2019 with her master’s from the Center of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Chicago, where she was interested in citizenship, borders, migration, and identities. She has worked and volunteered at several nonprofits. While always studying, and through this work, she noticed how neglected Arabic-speaking migrants are in Nashville in immigrant service centers. Her dream is for Arabic-speaking migrants and their children to form intersectional bonds and solidarities in Nashville for a city that feels like a community.

Minda Schweizer, MDiv, Home for Refugees USA (Los Angeles, California)

Read about Home for Refugees USA.

Minda Schweizer is the Founder and Executive Director of Home for Refugees USA. She has a Master of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California San Diego. After witnessing the heartfelt impact the resettlement partnership had on two families and volunteers in her own community, she founded Home for Refugees USA which partners faith and community groups with refugees to form Community Sponsorship Teams nationwide to help give them a good start their first year.

Rafid Al Bawi, Second Families (Glendale, California)

Read about Second Families.

Fellow bio coming soon!

Shana Wills, Refugee Education & Adventure Challenge (REACH) (Greater Chicago Metropolitan Area)

Read about REACH.

Shana Wills is the Executive Director and Founder of Refugee Education & Adventure Challenge (REACH), which provides refugee youth and their families with experiential learning opportunities focused on STEAM education and adventure sports. She’s also an independent consultant for grassroots refugee and immigrant-led organizations as well as a part-time faculty member at DePaul University, where she teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on migration, globalization, and experiential learning. Shana has worked on domestic and global refugee issues for more than 25 years.

Dr. Suzy Ismail, Cornerstone Marriage & Family Intervention (Princeton, New Jersey)

Read about Cornerstone Marriage & Family Intervention.

Dr. Suzy Ismail is the Founding Director of Cornerstone, a nonprofit, faith-based communication intervention organization with several locations around the world that focus on refugee integration interventions, youth, family, marriage, identity, socioemotional wellness, and relationship rebuilding. She has traveled to the border of Syria to work with refugee women, families, and orphans and continues her work with resettlement and relief agencies throughout the US, Canada, and abroad in addition to authoring numerous books and leading trainings internationally. Dr. Ismail’s humanitarian work has been recognized with numerous awards including the Ambassador for Peace Award and the Visionary Muslim Award. She holds an MA in Communication, an MPhil in Human Services and a PhD in Family Studies & Intervention Strategies.


Founding Members

Jeri Stroade, Dwell Mobile (Mobile, Alabama)

Read about Dwell Mobile.

In 2010, Jeri Stroade began volunteering with refugees in Mobile, Alabama through All Nations Community Church (ANCC). As Jeri met more and more refugees and listened to their stories, they continually identified the same need: relationships. The refugees told stories of leaving family and trying to establish life in Mobile far from their support networks. From this time of observation, learning and listening, Jeri started looking to provide opportunities for Mobilians to build relationships with refugees. It became evident that the refugee community’s needs were broader than one church could handle. In 2015, Jeri established Dwell Mobile as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization both to equip refugees to adjust to life in America and to mobilize Mobilians to care for refugees. The mission of Dwell Mobile to provide opportunities for refugees to thrive by raising awareness, removing obstacles and restoring relationships.

Kari Miller, International Neighbors (Charlottesville, Virginia)

Read about International Neighbors.

As a former elementary educator with 20 years of teaching experience, Kari Miller had spent years working with ESOL (English as a Second or Other Language) students in her community. As she witnessed the number of refugee students in her area continue to rise, she also saw the lack of resources available to them, and the obstacles they and their families faced outside of the classroom. She knew something needed to be done. So, in 2015, Kari founded International Neighbors, an organization dedicated to equipping Charlottesville’s refugee and SIV (Special Immigrant Visa) neighbors with the skills and networks they need to move from surviving to thriving. Since then, International Neighbors has served over 800 refugee and SIV neighbors living in Charlottesville City and Albemarle County.

Kathie O’Callaghan, Hearts & Homes for Refugees (Westchester County, New York)

Read about Hearts & Homes for Refugees.

A longtime volunteer for several local organizations in Pelham, New York, Kathie O’Callaghan used her experience and expertise to create Hearts & Homes for Refugees in 2015. Soon after founding the organization, Hearts & Homes welcomed the county’s first Syrian family to the community. The organization supported the family of six as they established their new lives in Pelham, lending them a hand with babysitting, connecting them to youth services, enrolling them in ESL courses, and helping furnish their home. After welcoming that first family, Hearts & Homes has continued to help refugee and asylee families with post-resettlement support as they navigate school and medical systems, learn English, get to appointments, and integrate into their new community. The organization now has around 300 volunteers. Kathie has also initiated a county-wide coalition to further expand post-resettlement support for refugees throughout Westchester County.

Kristen Bloom, Refugee Assistance Alliance (Miami, Florida)

Read about Refugee Assistance Alliance.

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 countries. 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.

Laura Thompson Osuri, Homes Not Borders (Washington, D.C.)

Read about Homes Not Borders.

When Laura Thompson Osuri founded Homes Not Borders, she had already been working in the refugee resettlement arena for several years leading National Community Church’s Refugee Care Agency. While working with Washington, D.C. resettlement agencies to help newly arrived families, Laura saw these families needed additional assistance in furnishing their new homes with everything from couches to washcloths. Laura and her team also saw first-hand how refugees, often with limited English skills, struggled to find employment. Combining these two needs — household furniture and employment opportunities — the team set up a workshop for refugees to create and refinish furniture. Laura soon realized the agency needed a new, separate organization to continue to expand these programs and services for the local refugee community. Homes Not Borders was officially created in 2019, with Laura acting as the executive director. The organization provides newly arrived refugee and asylee families with furnishings and household items as they set up their new homes. Laura and her colleagues also arrange career mentorship with local professionals in a refugee’s career field. For those looking to develop new skills, Homes Not Borders created a six-week course to teach local refugees woodworking and furniture-making. The refugees are then able to sell their handiwork to help support their families. Last year, Homes Not Borders welcomed 87 refugee families to the area, providing them with $140,000 worth of furniture and household goods.

Mary Poole, Soft Landing Missoula (Missoula, Montana)

Read about Soft Landing Missoula.

Soft Landing Missoula (SLM) was established in 2015 through the leadership of Mary Poole and the collective action of concerned citizens who came together to alleviate the suffering of families in turmoil around the world by welcoming refugees to Missoula, Montana. The mission of SLM is to help Missoula, Montana be a welcoming, supportive, and informed community that can assist refugees and immigrants to integrate and thrive. SLM is dedicated to the ongoing support of families throughout their long-term integration. In addition, SLM is focused on building a community that engages in welcoming refugees and immigrants and that celebrates the diversity, culture, and experience they bring to this city. Highlights of SLM’s programming include the Youth Program (providing academic and social support to youth), United We Eat (providing outlets for sharing of food and culture and opportunities for supplemental income) and our Community Resource Center (providing individual support, resources and mentorship for adults).

Miry Whitehill, Miry’s List (Los Angeles, California)

Read about Miry’s List.

In 2016, Miry Whitehill, a stay-at-home mom from Los Angeles, met a local refugee family from Syria struggling to set up their new lives without basic child and household items. Miry decided to post a request on Facebook for donations to help the family. To her surprise, neighbors and friends immediately contributed. As the donations continued to come in, Miry worked to reach other refugee families in need. Later that year, Miry officially created Miry’s List to assist even more families in her community. Miry had realized that even from her home in California, she could make a difference for refugee families escaping conflict and violence from countries around the world. Since 2016, the organization has gone on to help almost 300 refugee families to thrive in their new Los Angeles homes. Miry’s List continues to use crowdfunding and social media to provide refugee families with donated household goods. In addition, they successfully launched a New Arrival Supper Club, allowing refugees to share their traditional cuisine with their new neighbors and earn some money at the same time. Other Miry’s List programs include a temporary housing match and travel loan program.

Sheryl Rajbhandari, Heartfelt Tidbits (Cincinnati, Ohio)

Read about Heartfelt Tidbits.

Southwest Ohio is home to over 40,000 refugees who have resettled in the United States. These families are supported by resettlement agencies for their first 90 days in the county, and then are expected to be self sufficient and to navigate a new language, city and culture on their own. After getting to know a newly arrived Bhutanese family in her region, one Cincinnati resident, Sheryl Rajbhandari, saw the flaws in this system and the need for families to have a “longer welcome”. In 2008 Rajbhandari founded Heartfelt Tidbits in order to address the gaps left by the short-term aid of refugee resettlement agencies. It began as a passion project, however after seeing the growing number of refugees arriving in Cincinnati, Rajbhandari left her corporate career in 2013 to focus full time on serving refugee and immigrant populations. Heartfelt Tidbits is dedicated to helping refugees a ‘tidbit’ at a time, aiding families in the crucial period following their arrival to the United States. Their programs include english language and citizenship classes, youth support, job readiness, and other incredible support services for new arrivals.

Network Staff

The Hello Neighbor Network is led by Hello Neighbor’s National Program Manager, Rachel Vinciguerra in collaboration with Sloane Davidson (Founder and CEO of Hello Neighbor) and the Hello Neighbor staff team where you can find the whole team and their bios.

For more information, read our About The Hello Neighbor Network page or contact Rachel Vinciguerra, National Program Manager, at rachel@helloneighbor.io or (412) 567-3946.