Opportunity to Support a Family Seeking Asylum

As many in the IWR community know, Ithaca Welcome Refugees was created with a hope of supporting the resettlement of refugee families to our welcoming community. This part of our mission has been challenged by political decisions.

In response, we’ve expanded our mission to include resettling refugee families as they have come, supporting families seeking access to English classes, and responding to challenges faced by immigrants at risk.

We’ve recently been offered the opportunity, in partnership with Catholic Charities, to consider fully supporting the arrival of an asylum-seeking family in Ithaca. The family is from Angola and is fleeing persecution in their home country. They are two parents who have come to the United States seeking sanctuary and a safe place with their four children. 

We see this opportunity to support this family as being in line with our core IWR hopes and dreams – hopes for the family and for our community, which has so much welcome to give.

Asylum-seekers are legally released in the U.S. to await their opportunity to share their story and their need for protection with our immigration courts. While they wait to be heard, they need support to learn about their new home community, to help them navigate, to get work authorization, to find a job, to enroll in English classes, etc. – many of the same types of support IWR and Catholic Charities have experience providing to other families seeking refuge.

One significant difference is that asylum-seekers do not receive any government financial assistance. They must rely on neighbors and friends like us for support, until they get settled in and start supporting themselves through work. We are very fortunate that an amazing local congregation has agreed to provide long term housing for the family at no cost until the family situation is financially stable.

However, additional cash assistance support is needed to help with food, children’s needs, medicine, and other basic expenses over the next year or more while their asylum case moves through our backlogged immigration court system. Our goal is to raise the financial support to give this family a temporary helping hand and a new start.

Please consider offering a generous donation here to provide for basic needs for this family or consider making a recurring gift to help IWR provide stable assistance. Any funds which exceed the family’s monthly needs will be used to support critical needs for refugees, asylees, or at-risk immigrants in our community.

If you have question about opportunities for financial sponsorship for the family, please contact Sophia Rocco at orgdev@ithacawelcomesrefugees.org


Food Resources in Ithaca: A Guide for Immigrants and International Newcomers

IWR is delighted to share our publication, Food Resources in Ithaca: A Guide for Immigrants and International Newcomers!

The guide is intended to help those new to the community identify and make use of the City’s fantastic food-related assets. Using colorful visuals and simple text, the guide provides information on seasonal foods, places to shop, safety nets, local production, ordering in

a restaurant, key vocabulary, and more. To create relevant content and an accessible and attractive design, we worked closely for many months with Sidekick Studios, TST BOCES Adult ESL program, and many members of the refugee and immigrant community.

We are so proud of the final product and look forward to translating it into other languages commonly spoken among new arrivals in Ithaca. Please share with your newest neighbors!

The guide was made possible by a small grant from the U.S. Alumni Thematic International Exchange Seminars (Alumni TIES). This program is funded by the U.S. Department of State and administered by World Learning. The Alumni TIES program has previously featured blog posts on the creation and launch of the guide. Many thanks to all of the volunteers and partners who supported its development!

Print copies are available on request.

View Guide

With gratitude, and looking forward

AGlobal Roots Play Schools this year comes to an end and we look forward to the new year, we are grateful for the outpouring of local support received in response to challenges directly affecting refugees and immigrants here in Ithaca.

We have reached out to our newest neighbors who have come from all over the world—Afghanistan, Vietnam, Colombia, Venezuela, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Burma/Karen community, China, Ecuador, Indonesia, Japan, Taiwan, and Romania.

In 2017, IWR served newly arrived refugees, supported at-risk immigrants, and welcomed newcomers in our community through two major initiatives: Response Projects and Global Roots Play School.

Response Projects
IWR Response Projects focus on responding to the specialized needs of both newly arrived refugee families and at-risk immigrants who have lived in the Ithaca area for a longer period. With their agreement, we build a small core welcoming group that accompanies a family or individual in taking steps toward self-sufficiency.

While one family may need support to connect their child to meaningful activities, another might need transportation training, computer help, or assistance with finding consistent food support. Others need help finding people in the community who speak their language. Some need all of the above and more. Response Projects reduce isolation and get people connected to the wider network of resources that Ithaca offers.

We see that addressing near-term needs can have a long-term impact—these small investments into some of our most vulnerable neighbors lead to ever larger steps toward stability, success, and new hope for each person.

Global Roots Play School
Thanks to our entire community, we launched Global Roots Play School four months ago. Real families in our community now have access to English language education and tutoring and thoughtful, high-quality care for their children that was not accessible just a few short months ago.

Twenty-one children have been part of the program so far, and we have 13 more children on the waiting list!

Global Roots is already making a difference by offering a unique place that closes a gap for parents—especially women—who are eager to learn English but would otherwise not be able to due to lack of nearby childcare.

Mothers are often the primary caretakers, and outside childcare can be an expensive and unrealistic expense. GRPS makes it feasible for mothers to get to English class, empowering them to seek opportunities for themselves, including employment.

Global Roots is an amazing place of welcome. Parents who aren’t quite ready to say goodbye at the door are invited to come and stay. Families connect to other families undertaking the same journey, forming a learning-based community of support where everyone is comfortable and respectful of diverse life experience.

We’ve had parents, grandparents, big brothers, and big sisters all come to play. And the friendly faces that grace our door say daily “you are welcome here” in a profound way.
IWR Response Projects and Global Roots are just two examples of the ways IWR is working toward a more inclusive and welcoming community.

Your support—in volunteer hours, donations, goods and services, and by simply showing up to IWR events—is of absolute importance. We could not undertake these initiatives, and respond to the changing needs of newcomers in our community, without your support.

Please consider giving a holiday or end of year gift today. You also have the option to set up a recurring gift. Help this meaningful work continue in our community!

What We Are Thankful For

Thank You from IWR

In these times which can seem so troubled, it is a rare opportunity to stop and reflect with gratitude.  As we look back, we are thankful for…
  • The new Ithacans we have gotten to know this year, coming from homes far away, bringing with them resilience and smiles;
  • The little children of Global Roots Play School who have become fast friends, and their parents who have put their trust in our teachers, in order to pursue a new opportunity to learn;
  • The worker bees who have tirelessly gathered, moved, folded, organized, hustled, cooked, cleaned, decorated, and welcomed families into new homes and a new school;
  • The partners who have stepped up, reached out, given space, and collaborated in building a welcoming community;
  • The teachers who provided guidance to new arrivals on how to navigate this community and connect to its many resources, while extending the hand of friendship;
  • The folks “backstage” who answered the emails, created the systems, cut the checks, and balanced the books;
  • The talented artists who have sung, designed, written stories, and shared their films, in support of refugees on their journey to find home;
  • The advocates who have spoken out, made calls, marched, stood up for the 65 million forcibly displaced;
  • The connectors who have brought people together – volunteer to volunteer, friend to friend – building up IWR as a growing organization of interconnected humans. 
And we are grateful for you…hundreds of you…who have read these updates, showed up a events, given a donation, put out a good word, and raised a flag of WELCOME whenever you could.   

Thank you!

Can you guess what next Tuesday is?

Psst! Guess what? Next Tuesday is #GivingTuesday, the global day of giving.

Why? Because we have a day for giving thanks, two(!) days for getting deals, and now, a dedicated day to give back. This year, Ithaca Welcomes Refugees is participating in #GivingTuesday and we would be honored if you chose us as one of your organizations to support.

Mark Your Calendar

Thanks to dedicated volunteers and supporters like you, we’re able to create a more warm and welcoming community to refugees and immigrants in need. Your support means we can provide more childcare to parents learning English, more apartment and basic needs support, and more education on refugee and immigrant issues.

All the best,
Your IWR Board

This Week: Three Events Tackle the Refugee Crisis

[Image description: A still of a group of refugees, including many children, from the film Human Flow, which opens this Friday.]


One of the best things about living in Ithaca is how many options we have for spending our time. While the lake, gorges, and surrounding flora and fauna offer up countless year-round recreational options, Ithacans have even more choices when it comes to indoor entertainment and learning.

In the latter case, three refugee-related events should be on your radar this week, starting tonight:


Monday, Oct. 16

5:30 p.m.
Panel Discussion: Refugees in the United States
Panel hosted by Cornell Welcomes Refugees, Klarman Hall, Cornell
What does it mean to be a refugee in the U.S.?

Cornell Welcomes Refugees will be hosting a panel consisting of members of the Cornell community to foster discussion about a community of people who are forcibly displaced due to violence, war and persecution.

Political confusion, gridlocked regional interests and groundless stereotypes are taking our attention away from the refugee crisis that have consumed so many regions of the world. What is at stake is nothing less than the survival and well-being of a generation of refugees.

Join CWR to hear about the contributions of refugees in the United States, understand the work of resettlement agencies, and discuss the legality of the partial travel ban that has been i

mposed recently.


Wednesday, Oct. 18

7:30-9:00 p.m.
“Get on a Plane! Fighting for Refugees in the Age of Trump”
Lecture at the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research
Call Auditorium, Kennedy Hall
Becca Heller, co-founder and director of the International Refugee Assistance Project, will discuss how advocates can fight for the rights of refugees against the waves of right-wing populist xenophobia sweeping through the U.S. and Europe.

What obstacles do Syrian and other refugees face in attempting to seek safe passage?

How has the politicization of refugees conflated mass migration with terrorist infiltration?

And how are a group of lawyers and law students fighting back?

Rebecca M. Heller is a Visiting Clinical Lecturer in Law at Yale Law School. She graduated from Yale Law School in 2010 and received her B.A. from Dartmouth College. She founded and directs the International Refugee Assistance Project (formerly the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project) at Yale Law School, an organizatio

n that assists refugees in applying for resettlement from abroad and adjusting to life in the United States.

  • Kennedy Hall is at 215 Garden Ave, Ithaca, NY. Call Auditorium is on the first floor.
    Parking is available in the garage at 165 Hoy Road.
    Admission is free and open to the public.


Opening Friday, Oct. 20

“Human Flow”
Ai Weiwei’s documentary on the refugee crisis opens at Cinemapolis
More than 65 million people around the world have been forced from their homes to escape famine, climate change and war, the greatest displacement since World War II. Filmmaker Ai Weiwei examines the staggering scale of the refugee crisis and its profoundly personal human impact. Over the course of one year in 23 countries, Weiwei follows a chain of urgent human stories that stretch across the globe, including Afghanistan, France, Greece, Germany and Iraq.

From the New York Times review:
“’Human Flow’ opens and closes with aquatically themed imagery, beginning with a shot of a deep, dazzlingly blue body of water. It’s a soothing, almost meditative vision as well as a seductive dream of nature as a balm and refuge. This pacific picture, though, is soon replaced by far more disturbing, recurrent images of perilously small boats filled with frantically shouting, gesturing men, women and children seeking asylum. In one makeshift port and then another there is splashing and disembarking and then cries and hugs as babies are gingerly passed from hand to hand. It’s a distressing, familiar scene in some ways, one that has been playing on our televisions for years.

What Mr. Ai seeks is to go far beyond the nightly news; he wants to give you a sense of the scale of the crisis, its terrifying, world-swallowing immensity. And so he jumps from one heartbreak to the next, passes through Gaza, drops into Pakistan, spends time in Turkey and ambles along the border separating (somewhat) Mexico and the United States, where an American border guard rather ridiculously tries to explain where Mr. Ai can and cannot go. Mr. Ai also visits a number of refugee camps that range from the squalid to the unimaginable and, as he does throughout, he shows you both the dignity and the misery at street level before using drones to soar over the camps.”