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New Refugee Community Sponsorship Program

Earlier this week, members of Oakmont Presbyterian Church stood waiting in the airport baggage claim with a sign that read “Karibu” which is “Welcome” in Swahili. Their smiling faces waited to greet a family of four from Democratic Republic of Congo who had just stepped off the plane to their new home. Oakmont Presbyterian is the first of many congregations throughout Pittsburgh to be able to welcome a new JFCS refugee family to Pittsburgh through a community sponsorship initiative, which was started this year.

Community Sponsorship

Through JFCS’s new Community Sponsorship Program, faith-based and organized community groups can directly engage in refugee resettlement efforts. Partnering with faith-based organizations has been essential to JFCS’s resettlement work, with congregations of different faiths coming together to cook welcome meals, donate furniture, help with housing set-ups, and educate the community about refugees in our city. Now, faith-based organizations have a chance to get involved in an even deeper way. 

Sponsors commit to providing financial or in-kind contributions, volunteer services, and emotional and resettlement support to help newly-arrived refugees integrate into life in a new country. Through this program, JFCS will work alongside organizations to provide extensive and comprehensive training and ensure that each partner group has the tools, skills, and resources needed to successfully help a new refugee family. 

Inspired to Get Involved

JFCS has already officially partnered with Oakmont Presbyterian Church to complete the training and be paired with a family and has a few other potential partners with local faith groups in the works.

Oakmont Presbyterian Church was inspired to get involved when they saw the growing need for support of refugees with an influx of arrivals to Pittsburgh. Oakmont Presbyterian’s Pastor Steve Wilson shared, “Our church has always been responsive to needs around us. When the need arose for resettling refugee families I thought that this would be a mission that our congregation would embrace…. We announced in worship that we were seeking a team of 8-10 church members and 22 people responded. We are praying that God will use us to welcome and bless the family assigned to us.”

The new JFCS community sponsorship initiative is just one of the many ways that faith groups looking to welcome refugees and immigrants to Pittsburgh can get involved. Other ways include holding donation drives for much-needed items, helping with grocery shopping and housing set ups for new arrivals, working with our legal team to hold a citizenship clinic, putting together an awareness campaign or event to help others learn about refugees, and more. To learn more about how your congregation can partner with JFCS to support refugees, contact Alina Harbourne, the Refugee Sponsorship Coordinator, at aharbourne@jfcspgh.org.

To speak with a staff member for an interview on JFCS refugee resettlement efforts or the Community Sponsorship Program, please contact Allie Reefer at areefer@jfcspgh.org and 814-229-3133.