News & Views

Weekly Wins Round-Up: February 2021

February brought many things to look forward to – a new citizenship act in Congress, better weather, the hope of an even more immigrant-friendly stimulus package, COVID-19 vaccine rollouts. I hope these Weekly Wins will bring even more joy into your life, as they have into mine!


Youth client’s passion for art is fostered at HIAS Pennsylvania.

My weekly win is that some of our K-8 Newcomer Youth ESL students are really digging into the art component of our program. One of the students (a youth team client) is particularly passionate about art and used one of the digital drawing platforms that Parker Jackson, our wonderful Art Instructor, introduced to the class in the fall. It’s called Google Canvas, and the student uses her tablet and copies pictures from the internet then adds her own creative style to them. She has these programs bookmarked in her Chromebook from HIAS PA! Having this student in the class is one of the silver linings of working remotely, as she lives in Malvern and never would have been able to join the classes if we were running them in person in the city.

Check out her artwork above! The names in the squares are the names of our three teachers.

-Valeri Harteg, Education Program Manager

Note: Thanks to your support, clients like this student have received 220 Chromebooks to bridge social, creative, and educational gaps during the pandemic.


Pashto wellness group addresses refugees’ mental health needs

A shout out to Refugee Resettlement Fellow Said Hashemi who successfully facilitated his first Wellness Group for Pashto speakers! We’ve been trying to find ways to support refugee clients who were detained in Nauru and Manus and address their social isolation and mental health needs. I’m so excited about this group and am grateful to Said who volunteered to run it!

-Amy Eckendorf, Immigrant Wellness Program Manager


Volunteer translators and interpreters work behind the scenes to keep HIAS PA moving forward.

This week, I was super thankful for a couple of volunteer interpreters that have helped me at various stages of two clients’ cases that have been ongoing for years at this point. They are always available and anxious to help and have both gone above and beyond, making my life a lot easier. Some people are just so kind and that’s a win.

-HIAS PA Domestic Violence Supervising Attorney


Education team doesn’t miss a beat.

We want to take a moment to express our gratitude to Parisa Khoshnood, who stepped in while our Education Program Manager was on maternity leave, for all that she has done to not only help steer the ship for the Education team but also advance our work in big ways. In addition to handling myriad administrative tasks associated with supporting our adult and youth education programs, Parisa participated in advocacy meetings with the school district, completed a scary Refugee Data Submission System for Formula Funds Allocations Report Form, ended up co-leading a meeting with all 95 school district Bilingual Counseling Assistants, called out school staff who refused to use Language Line with parents, and so much more. Parisa also went above and beyond for several Resettlement & Placement (R&P) clients including visiting clients at their homes, helping school-aged children access online school, and delivering laptops. We are so grateful for Parisa and her support throughout the last couple of months. Thank you, Parisa!

-Valeri Harteg, Education Program Manager, and Dzemila Bilanovic, Resettlement Case Manager


Formerly detained client reunites with family.

Congratulations to Independence Foundation Public Interest Law Fellow Matthew P. Egler DiFerdinando! On Monday, Matt conducted his first individual hearing for one of his clients, whose immigration case had dragged on since 2010. Attorney/Client prep was not ideal because access to detainees is significantly limited as a result of COVID-19 restrictions. But Matt made his arguments and the client benefited from good lawyering. The client has now been reunited with his US citizen wife and two daughters, who are over the moon! Great job Matt, for showing what a difference legal representation for the detained can make.

-Ayodele Gansallo, Co-Director of Legal Services


Client receives social security card after six months of advocacy.

My colleague on the Domestic Violence team had a big win this week with the Social Security Administration (SSA)!! She did absolutely incredible, painstaking work advocating for our client for basically half a year of craziness. Our client was approved for a work permit in late August of 2020. In early September, my colleague started working with her to help her apply for a social security number, which she needs in order to use her work permit to work. For the next SIX MONTHS, my colleague advocated for this client while the Social Security Administration continuously delayed, denied her application, or lost her file. My colleague made multiple phone calls, accompanied the client telephonically to her interviews, escalated to SSA management, and even considered getting a congressperson involved. Finally this week, our client received her social security card in the mail!! Thank you so much for your persistence over all of these incredibly frustrating months, for never giving up, and for your compassion and dedication to your clients!!

-HIAS PA Domestic Violence Staff Attorney


Thank you for your continued support of HIAS Pennsylvania. I hope that these Weekly Wins from HIAS PA staff have given you a lift, as they do me. Look out for more wins at the beginning of next month!

In health,

Cathryn Miller-Wilson, Esq.