New Program Partners Native-Born And Refugee Pittsburghers As Friends And Mentors

Mar 29, 2017

Pittsburghers who want to support refugees in the community will soon be able to do so one-on-one.

A new organization called Hello Neighbor is now taking applications for individuals and families who want to be matched as friends and mentors to incoming refugees.

The program was largely inspired by founder Sloane Davidson’s personal experience. When she learned there was a Syrian family living in her Highland Park neighborhood, she invited them to Thanksgiving dinner. That resulted in more regular meals and birthday parties together.

Davidson said there are lots of people in Pittsburgh who want to support refugees.

She said they are “willing to go to a protest in Schenley Plaza and go out to the airport, but they didn’t necessarily know any refugees or immigrants. And on the other side, (for) the refugees and immigrants, it tends to be a very isolating experience. They’re new , they don’t have the language, the transportation know-how and they don’t tend to have a lot of American friends.”

Davidson said Hello Neighbor will help refugees become more self-sufficient by partnering them with friends who can help them both navigate city systems and have a little fun in the process.

The four-month summer program asks Pittsburgh natives to plan one interaction per week, which could include a check-in phone call or a trip the zoo or library.

“Ways for people to just share a space with a refugee, I think that’s really important,” Davidson said. “You don’t have to share a language to do a craft activity or share a meal, and I think there’s a lot of power in just being in that shared community space.”

Applications are open through April 23.