Refugees Helping Refugees

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Refugees Helping Refugees (RHR) is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit that is peer-assisted and all-volunteer operated, working with refugees so that they may achieve self-sufficiency and become agents of their own advancement. We wish to grow to become a comprehensive community center serving refugees from all countries, focusing on teaching functional English and occupational skills.

We are currently located at 835 South Avenue, in Rochester, New York, close to many local refugee communities and on a bus line. Our operating hours are from 9 AM to 5 PM, Monday through Friday. Our primary clients are refugees in Rochester, New York who have recently arrived from all over the world.

The general outline of our daily services consist of English (ESOL) classes in the morning and a Work Experience Program (WEP) in the afternoon which offers job and life skills training in areas such as cooking, sewing, computer literacy, and health and safety. In addition, we provide extensive case management services to any of our students or refugee families, citizenship training, and a senior engagement program. Unlike other organizations providing refugee resettlement services, we are led by refugees who have experienced the stress of forced migration and loss of country and have succeeded in overcoming the barriers to resettlement in Rochester. Because of outside community support and training, we have the administrative and organizational skills usually seen in most non-profits.

Mission

Refugees Helping Refugees (RHR) is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit that is refugee and all-volunteer-run and serves refugees in Rochester, New York. We seek to foster the growth, self-determination, and self-reliance of the refugee community by making them agents of their own advancement. We seek to become a comprehensive community center providing a full range of services to our own community while welcoming people from all cultures and ethnicities. We focus on teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and relevant social services as a way of helping refugees help themselves to become self-sufficient.

RHR is led by refugees who have experienced the stress of forced migration and loss of country and have succeeded in overcoming the barriers to resettlement in Rochester. This offers a different sort of community than is usually found in most refugee resettlement organizations.

  • RHR provides long-term support to refugees beyond the initial ninety days that the US government allots through the Office of Refugee Resettlement. This allows us to create strong bonds and a family-like atmosphere where we not only see the refugees learn and become successful, but we see their children grow up as well.
  • RHR extends its aid to all refugees regardless of origin, nationality, religion, or orientation. Because of this widespread demographic, our community is one that celebrates and promotes diversity which fosters an environment of reciprocity: everyone can learn something from everyone.
  • RHR focuses on collaboration and not competition. We work to develop partnerships with a wide range of community ethnic groups and outside community stakeholders, such as Catholic Family Center, OACES, local colleges and universities, and the United Way so that we may continue to serve a wider demographic as comprehensively as possible.

History

RHR was incorporated on November 8, 2001 as the Somali Community in Western New York (SCWNY) where a small group of Somali male refugees worked out of their homes to tutor in English and help people read their mail, while supporting their own families. In 2010, they joined with local Somali women, led by Sadiya Omar, to expand the services they could offer to the Somali refugee community. And, with the help of local friends and staff of the Charles Settlement House, they began to provide more formal English classes, a senior group, and an intergenerational youth summer program by 2012. Their programs were stabilized and supported through collaboration with the Monroe County Department of Social Services and Rochester Works, which certified their center as a Work Experience Program (WEP) site, giving the organization opportunity to teach more than just English.

Just as they were contemplating expanding their demographic to include refugees of all nationalities, their facility was flooded by a frozen pipe bursting in January of 2014, causing a six-month disruption in the rhythm of SCWNY and another forced migration. With the aid of another local refugee resettlement service, Mary’s Place, SCWNY was able to seek out another short term facility to utilize until a more permanent space could be acquired. After settling in a space offered by The Greek Orthodox Church of the Holy Spirit, the staff decided it was time to reincorporate as Refugees Helping Refugees to better reflect the broadening of their constituency, which became a reality on December 31, 2014.

Vision

We are sustained by refugees who have settled in the US empowering new refugees to pursue a safe, secure, and fulfilling life while honoring their individual cultures. We at RHR work to help all refugees become agents of their own advancement and look forward to becoming a sustainable, supportive, and comprehensive community center.

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