News & Views

Weekly Wins Round-up: December 2022

Dear Friend,

2022 was a year of global unrest, but it was also a year where we all came together to help the survivors.

Because of your support, we will continue to be there. You donated money, food, clothing, household goods, energy, and time as we supported Haitians, Afghans, Ukrainians, and, towards the last two months of the year, 16 buses full of newcomers that were sent to us from Texas. We, with the City’s partnership, the collaboration of many immigrant-serving nonprofits, and all of you, were able to help make sure that every person who arrived from Texas had a warm coat, knowledge of their legal rights in the United States, and a safe journey to their next destination. To learn more about the buses, our response, and how you can help, join us for our annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Advocacy and Action.

We recently shared with you the gripping story of Parvanah* who overcame dire odds, including being shot at by the Taliban, nearly being crushed in a stampede at the airport in Kabul, and being bounced from place to place in her journey to safety in Philadelphia. Parvanah shared with us a painting she made (pictured above) that represents the mask Afghan women wear that cloaks the butterfly-like beauty and freedom contained within each Afghan woman. With your continued support, we helped remove that mask for so many Afghan women in the United States, and we continue to work to bring more Afghan refugees, along with Ukrainian and Haitian newcomers fleeing political and environmental turmoil, to safety.

Our ever-resilient clients bring us hope. As we step into 2023, please join me in celebrating our successes!

A survivor of domestic violence visits home for the first time in a decade.

After almost 10 years away, a former client was able to visit the Philippines and see her family, including her son and granddaughter! She was one of my first clients. Through the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), in 2021, she went from being an undocumented immigrant to a legal permanent resident, and she now has her green card!

My client had married her husband in the Philippines in 2013 and then a month later came with him to Philadelphia because his employer had sponsored him for a visa. She didn’t know anyone here and was home alone for most of the day. Her husband became physically abusive and frequently threatened her life. Eventually, she fled and lived with friends. Once she lost contact with her husband, she became undocumented. When she connected with HIAS PA in 2017, we were able to determine that her husband had just become a Legal Permanent Resident. Using that information, we filed a VAWA self-petition, which would enable her to become eligible for legal permanent resident status without her abusive husband finding out. In 2020, her application was approved and she obtained work authorization for the first time and was finally able to apply for legal permanent resident status, and then for her green card, which she now holds, allowing her to travel home!

-Domestic Violence Program Co-Managing Attorney

Advocacy prevails! A survivor of crime reunites with her parents.

A client who has a U-Visa pending due to being a victim of a crime asked me to write a letter to the US embassy in the Dominican Republic on behalf of her parents who recently applied for a visitor visa based on humanitarian reasons. My client was extremely traumatized by the crime she was a victim of, so I prepared the letter indicating that the client had a visa pending and why it was important for her mental health to see her parents after some years of separation. My client informed me that her parents’ visitor visas were approved! She is very happy and thankful!

-Vleidmy Velarde, Immigrant Victims of Crime Initiative Supervisor

“I am proud” — English as a Second Language students reflect.

This month we had our final week of classes for the Fall 2022 session of HIAS PA’s Adult ESL program! I did a wrap-up activity where some students shared what they are proud of about themselves and from this year.

  • I am proud I am in the USA.
  • I am proud of everything being good.
  • I am proud of having food and health.
  • I am proud of myself and how I can live with differences.
  • I am proud I help people.
  • I’m proud of completing my English class this year. I’m proud to be one of the people HIAS PA helps a lot with education problems and other things. I am proud to be a mother. I am proud to be here in the United States. I am proud of being a good human.
  • I am proud that I am a human being and I want to behave like a human being. My behavior with people and my environment should be good. Good manners are the only capital of us humans.
  • I’m proud that I am Afghan. I am proud that I have beautiful children. I am proud that I was a teacher.

-Eliana Stanislawski, Adult ESL Instructor & Citizenship Instruction Coordinator

Afghan refugees delight in a community party.

HIAS PA partners with CHOP Karabots to provide medical screenings to every child who comes through the refugee resettlement program, and the doctors who run the Refugee Clinic at CHOP Karabots recently hosted a party for our Afghan clients. They provided Afghan food, games, and crafts, and sent everyone home with bags of veggies grown at their farm! It was very special to see clients connecting with one another and building stronger connections with their healthcare providers.

-Amy Eckendorf, Immigrant Health and Wellness Program Manager

Note: HIAS PA is actively looking for medical accompaniment volunteers. Learn more about volunteering here!

Thank you for your continued support of HIAS Pennsylvania and the immigrant families we are privileged to serve. I hope that these wins from HIAS PA staff give you a lift, as they do me. Look out for more wins at the beginning of next month! Happy new year!

In health,

Cathryn Miller-Wilson
Executive Director

*name has been changed