The community in Harrison, Westchester County has been coming together to help Afghan refugees for years, even before the Biden administration announced a new program called Welcome Corps to help refugees coming to the U.S.
The goal of the program is to encourage American citizens to step up to the plate for those who need a safe haven in America.
For Nancy Hart, it was a no-brainer to sponsor an Afghan refugee family more than five years ago.
Reshad Ahmadi and his wife fled Afghanistan with their two children in 2017. They’ve resettled and are now thriving in Westchester, thanks to the generosity of the Jewish Community Center of Harrison (JCCH).
“If anything happens, we’re around, they’re around,” Hart said.
Right now JCCH, in partnership with Community Synagogue of Rye and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, is sponsoring two new Afghan families who fled Kabul under Taliban rule.
Hart’s group helps refugees with things like housing, finances, education and transportation for six months. She said it’s so much more than support and resources.
“Probably one of the best experiences I’ve had. We have this loving relationship with a family from a totally different culture that we never would have known about, and they never would have known about our culture,” said Hart, co-chair of JCCH’s Resettlement Committee. “I think I did a lot of this for myself. I did a lot of this because as role model for my children.”
Hart said she is happy the Biden administration is empowering Americans through its new Welcome Corps policy, a way for ordinary Americans to directly sponsor refugee families in their communities. Sponsors must raise funds and other resources on their own, without government assistance.
“We have a group of about 40 to 50 people right now, who are committed and who work tirelessly, from employment, to transportation, to finance, to fundraising, budgeting, education, housing, but it’s the most worthwhile thing in the world,” she said.
The Biden administration’s refugee cap for this year is 125,000 people. Ahmadi said JCCH’s support helped him to pick up the pieces and rebuild his life in a new world.
He said he is an advocate for community-model sponsorship.
“It gives the immigrant family or refugee the opportunity to start off his life and become self-sufficient in no matter of time,” Ahmadi said.
Hart and the Ahmadi family said they are forever bonded, by a unique experience, from answering a humanitarian call to being family.
“As a Jewish American, it’s from the deepest part of our hearts, that we are able to provide the same type of opportunities and sanctuary for this amazing Muslim family,” Hart said.