People That Move Us: The Founder of Hello Neighbor

10/11/2017 02:09 pm ET
Sloane Davidson
Sloane Davidson

When Sloane Davidson decided to start a family, she chose to move back to her hometown of Pittsburgh so she would have the support system of family and friends. A support system is a luxury most of the 3 million refugees in the U.S. no longer have after being displaced from their homes and separated from their families and friends.

Although Sloane had almost two decades of nonprofit and international development experience, moving back to Pittsburgh allowed the new mother to explore how she could make a difference in the international community. In the midst of political turmoil after the 2016 election, Sloane’s new mission became clear when she volunteered to host a Syrian refugee family for Thanksgiving. She discovered just how little support these refugees had after they were settled by local resettlement agencies.

While refugees are given the basic support of finding jobs and living arrangements with resettlement agencies in the United States, they are then expected to integrate into American culture; leaving many to keep to themselves and face extreme isolation.

After sharing her Thanksgiving experience in a viral blog post over 1,200 people reached out to Slonewanting to know how to help. She decided to develop Hello Neighbor, an organization that matches post-resettlement refugee families with dedicated neighbors who help them acclimate to the American culture.

In Hello Neighbor’s inaugural class in Pittsburgh, PA, Sloane introduced 25 refugee families from seven countries to 25 American families. Between June and September of this year, these families participated in both group and individual activities - from potlucks and museum trips to more personal help like deciphering junk mail from electricity bills, celebrating birthday parties and preparing for driver's exams.

Sloane’s work has been featured in Glamour, PBS NewsHour and The New York Times.

The program has not only helped refugees better acclimate, but Sloane has seen changes in behavior from the American mentors as well. Between the refugee and mentor families, 88 kids under the age of 18 participated in the first class with their parents, from babies to college students. American parents were able to volunteer their time while teaching their kids how to help their neighbors and simultaneously introducing them to new cultures.

We love it when neighbors are neighborly and truly support one another! Sloane is taking it to a whole new level by matching post-resettlement refugee families with dedicated neighbors. She is bringing us back to an era when communities came together to help one another, cook together and learn from one another. Today, this welcoming spirit is indeed welcomed and needed. Say “hi” to your neighbor today, open your door this Halloween and extend an invitation to your Thanksgiving table. And, please join us in supporting Hello Neighbor!

How to Help:

Become a Mentor. Hello Neighbor is beginning to recruit new mentors and refugee families for its next class in November 2017. You can find more details here.

Donate. Want to bring Hello Neighbor to your city next? The organization plans to grow rapidly in 2018, but needs the financial support to accomplish this. Every donation makes a difference.

Volunteer Your Time Locally. There are refugee organizations all over the country that could use more volunteers. Hello Neighbor maintains the only public list of nonprofits and social service agencies helping refugees across the country called the National Refugee Resettlement and Immigrant Assistance Database.

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