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Pittsburgh’s First Refugee Family of 2020

new refugee family meets with caseworker in home

Coming to America

On January 21, 2020, smiling faces, warm food from their neighbors, and a household of donations from welcoming community members greeted Pittsburgh’s first refugee family of the new year. The family of seven–father, mother, four sons, and grandmother–arrived on a long flight from Tanzania to New York to Pittsburgh. Originally from Democratic Republic of Congo, the family fled to Tanzania in 1999. After gaining refugee status in 2004, they waited 16 years to come to the US. Even the freezing temperatures couldn’t dampen the family’s spirits! When the family heard how excited our community was for their arrival, they applauded in the airport. The grandmother Pendeza even got up and danced! 

JFCS Refugee Case Worker Abby Jo took the family to their new home to settle in. Then, she helped them understand what their next few months post-arrival would look like. To express their excitement over the year’s first refugee family, our local community donated lots of furniture and household items to fill the home. The neighbors welcomed the new arrivals, as well. A Congolese family living down the street, who arrived in 2018, brought hot meals for the family to eat for a taste of their home country. 

new refugee family at the airport

“It’s a nice thing knowing that we have been received well and have received things from people in Pittsburgh,” Charles, the father, said. “We already know it’s a good place with good people. Everything will be okay.” The family appreciated the kindness and warm welcome from the community. Additionally, Charles’s three younger sons expressed excitement about starting school. Pendeza also said she was grateful for Abby Jo and her pure heart.

Refugee Resettlement in 2020

This year, the US expects to resettle only 18,000 refugees. This is the lowest number set in the history of arrivals since Congress created the Refugee Act in 1980. Worldwide, the number of refugees is estimated to be around 21 million out of a total of 65 million people displaced from conflict, violence, and environmental disaster. 

If you want to help welcome refugees to Pittsburgh, JFCS has many ways to get involved! Check our Facebook page for arrival announcements to see what you can donate to new families and individuals resettling here. You can also volunteer to be an in-home mentor or work with our after school program. These programs help refugee families and children adjust to their new lives in America! To learn more about volunteering, email avantreeck@jfcspgh.org.