News & Views

Weekly Wins Round-up: September 2020

September marked six months since the start of the pandemic. Six months since our routines were abruptly upended. Six months of uncertainty for our clients. Without missing a beat, we pivoted to working just as diligently remotely as we had been in person, giving our clients a small life preserver in the storm. With the establishment of the Immigrant Relief Fund, they also had access to cash for food and housing, and case management services during a particularly turbulent spring and summer.

For HIAS Pennsylvania, September also marked a new era – after more than two decades in the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia building at 2100 Arch Street, HIAS Pennsylvania has moved to be together in one office, located in the historic Public Ledger building at 6th and Chestnut. We look forward to the moment when we can meet again in our new offices to celebrate working together to ensure the safety and success of Philadelphia’s immigrants.

1. Volunteers ensure that food-insecure clients do not go hungry.

“I want to send a HUGE thank you to Kerry who was able to connect several of my clients with a volunteer to bring them much-needed groceries. This was especially important when one of my clients told me that she hadn’t had food in her fridge for a few days but was embarrassed to tell me. Kerry was able to find a volunteer very quickly to provide groceries to my client and her three children. Kerry, you are great!”

Update: The client has since been hired for a job and is now back on her feet!

-Nicole Banales, Case Manager

2. Clients gain access to technology and literacy classes to lessen the digital divide.

“A big shout out to all of the interns who have worked on the technology project over the past few months! In just a short time, 80 individuals received one-on-one digital literacy training (including how to use Zoom!), over 20 households were signed up for Internet Essentials, and around 50 parents were called to receive back to school information and training on the parent portal. This team of interns was fantastic!! Thank you for all of your hard work, patience, and dedication to this project!”

-Anna Shaffer, Immigrant Wellness Program Group Programming Coordinator

3. A client is eligible for a work permit and green card despite prohibitive fees.

Our client was rejected twice for a fee waiver to cover the prohibitive costs of a green card and work permit application, despite providing a ton of evidence of this client’s financial hardship – sick parents, financial crisis in home country, sole support for family, barely any income here, etc. But these days, USCIS only wants to see tax returns as proof of low income, even when low income means that you don’t have to file a return and despite the fact that all of the organizations that help clients self-report and file taxes were closed due to COVID-19.

In June, our client was able to file her taxes in time for the July deadline. We submitted the fee waiver application a THIRD time, and it was approved! She is now eligible for a work permit for the first time since coming to the US. She was so excited to be able to work a better paying job and use her degree.

-Joanna Gardner, HIAS PA Skadden Fellow, and Maria Sofia Gattorno, Staff Attorney

4. Eleven adult clients make their way to self-sufficiency with the help of HIAS PA staff.

“Kudos and a big shout out to my Matching Grant (MG) program team. Nakyha, Chiara, Liz, Shiyuan all tirelessly worked virtually with all MG clients to help and support them to become self-sufficient.

  • 4 adult clients have been placed for work, all of them started their first job in the United States last Tuesday two months after their arrival.

  • 3 adult clients are in the hiring process after working with the team to complete their clearances and get background checks and other paperwork.

  • A 6-person household (4 adults and 2 children) is now economically self-sufficient, with 3 of the adults working, and the 4th set to start his job in September.

I would like to thank each one of you for your dedication and patience while working with each client individually and in group settings, it is not easy to work with people virtually who are coming from very different cultural, languages, background, and with very limited knowledge on how to use technology. Your work is highly appreciated.”

-Khalil Rasekh, Employment Case Manager

5. Clients receive backpacks, complete the census, and attend doctor’s appointments.

“I have a few folks I want to give big shout outs to this week!

  • Emily Polstein, an Immigrant Relief Fund Case Manager, who was in her very first week with us and whom I hadn’t even had the fortune to meet yet, but who immediately stepped up to deliver 25 Cradles to Crayons backpacks and tons of school supplies to the office!

  • Alexa and Hannah, two of our amazing co-ops who have been doing crucial census outreach this summer to make sure refugees who arrived in the past few years are aware of the census and know how to complete it!

  • Meagan Hume, Health Coordinator, who teamed up with me to completely revamp our appointment accompaniment program in order to account for COVID-19 and to try to attract folks willing to volunteer and take the risk going into hospitals and medical appointments with clients. Meagan developed a totally virtual onboarding program to get our core group started. All of this was done in a matter of weeks – and we have our first volunteer-accompanied appointments this week since COVID started!”

-Kerry Coughlin, Community Engagement Specialist

Interested in becoming an appointment accompaniment volunteer or delivery driver? You can learn more and sign up to volunteer!

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

P.S. Want more HIAS PA? Join us at our Annual Meeting on Wednesday, October 14th, at 12PM, as we honor our volunteers who make our work possible and the clients whose courage and resilience remind us of why we do the work we do!

P.P.S. Justice for all of us is on the ballot this November 3rd. Make a plan and don’t forget to vote!