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JFCS rolls up its sleeves in Pittsburgh’s West End

JFCS Refugee & Immigrant Services was pleased to receive NAP tax credits to expand services in the newest refugee community in the City’s West End. NAP (Neighborhood Assistance Program) is a tax credit program in Pennsylvania that encourages business to invest in projects which improve distressed areas or support neighborhood conservation. 

We are grateful to UPMC Health Plan for this funding that will enable JFCS to institute a one-year intensive program offering expanded services to 75 refugee families, improving their ability to work and advance in the U.S. workforce, acquire financial independence, encourage children to achieve academically, and build a supportive peer network within their ethnic community.

In short, all services JFCS usually offers to refugees – resettlement, housing and employment assistance, orientation, volunteer mentoring and more – will be expanded, giving this community a year of dedicated attention that will help accelerate their progress in work, community integration, language proficiency, and systems navigation.

Expanded “office hours” for refugee services and ISAC (Immigrant Services and Connections) staff, plus more interpreter hours, will be available. Refugees can drop in and ask for any kind of help: reading mail, paying bills, getting kids enrolled in school, finding anything from bus routes to doctors. There will also be a new cultural orientation sessions with interpreters.

Spending more time in the community will also help address  additional challenges early on. An intensive care management staff member made possible by these funds will offer regular hours to help address these problems.

NAP will support JFCS’s role in recruiting and supervising volunteers for an After School Club it runs jointly with ARYSE in that neighborhood. Kids K-8 have been able to get homework help, English practice, an array of creative and fun activities, and emotional/social support. Funding will help to recruit and train skilled volunteers. 

JFCS originated the idea of peer support groups led by ethnic community leaders as a very effective way to reduce isolation and foster community-building and self-reliance. The peer support group in this area will now be able to set up a regular schedule.

Starting over in a new country is extraordinarily challenging for refugees fleeing war and violence. But the drive to succeed and the enthusiasm for building a new life are there. This investment will help the entire neighborhood, refugees and other residents, build a thriving community together.