Anna recently hired me to shoot a day in the life of her refugee drop in center in Buffalo, NY.
I spent the day watching hard working people solve problems for refugees who were overwhelmed by issues of paperwork, transportation systems, immunization records, green cards, etc . . . that they simply could not deal with without the help of a translator. In fact, some of their issues would have been hard to solve for an American-born English-speaking citizen!
Anna’s own words on why she founded Hope:
“I co-founded Hope Refugee Services in 2008. After several years working in refugee resettlement, I realized that a huge gap in services existed and this frustrated me. For refugees arriving in Buffalo, the majority of services ended after six months, and for many this was simply not enough time to adapt to life. Literacy is required for life in America more than most people realize. The ability to fill a simple form is needed to get medical care, maintain food stamps, apply for a job, or even rent an apartment. Many refugees can’t speak English let alone read it within that time period. For others, they want to go to college, complete a GED, or buy a house. It bothered me that people were falling through the cracks. It was unacceptable to me that people came here to start a new life and got caught up in the cycle of poverty, especially when it could be addressed or avoided.
Hope Refugee Services opened its doors to provide services to refugees for whom services were otherwise unavailable. Our intention was to provide a continuum of service to our clients. We are the only post-resettlement agency in Buffalo. Our cornerstone program is the Hope Refugee Drop In Center, which is open to clients three days a week. It is not traditional case management. A client comes in, identifies their own problem and we help them find a solution to that problem. Every day is a surprise and we do anything from referrals, scheduling appointments, and filling out forms. We also started an afterschool program for middle schoolers, a home ownership program, an adult education program, a sewing project, and an urban gardening initiative. All of our programs were designed in dialogue with refugee communities, to make sure they addressed each need as effectively as possible
I chose the name Hope, because I wanted to see hope restored to our clients. I wanted to bring hope to our wider community. I wanted the refugee community to feel that they had a part in their own destiny’s, rather than riding along in a system that was inaccessible.
In 2009, we merged with Jericho Road Ministries, strengthening our programs and infrastructure. This also helped provide sustainability. JRM had several refugee projects as well, including a pregnancy mentoring program, a financial literacy program, and a program working with toddlers for school readiness.
Jericho Road Ministries was named for the parable of the Good Samaritan, running on the Biblical principle of helping others in their time of need. Located on the West side of Buffalo, we currently have three locations. If you are interested in volunteering, you can call 716-348-3000 and ask for Joelle. IF you would like to send a donation, the address is Jericho Road Ministries 184 Barton St Buffalo, NY 14213″
Burmese refugees get off the bus by Jericho Road Ministries
word has quickly spread about the services offered by Hope, and the drop in center stays busy all day
Hope Refugee drop in center
Anna meets with a potential donor.
Her "CAN DO" attitude has taken this service from concept to full fruition! What a lady!
Anna excels at solutions.
Because of their wonderful reputation, the waiting room is full as soon as the doors open!
A social worker and translator work together to help a mother understand how to enroll her child in school, get him there on time and in proper uniform, and have his medical records up to date!
Anna applies for grants in her back office.
The grants help cover expenses and hiring new workers as the center continues to grow and help more refugees!
Anna helps a family with paperwork, with the help of Tha Dah, a Burmese refugee who now works for the center as a translator.
This mother was at the center nearly all day with her three children.
Her children were so well behaved and patient.
Simple things like turning off electricity when someone moves. These small things make a huge difference in the lives of someone who cannot read or speak english.
They keep their files very organized, and their system of helping their clients is very efficient.
It was great to witness the good/effective side of social services. Creating independence, not dependence.
Anna doesn't rhyme with Awesome. but it should.
Anna's commitment to help doesn't end at work.
She rents rooms in her house to refugees who have relocated to Buffalo.
They all get along . . . for the most part =)
This image, I love. I think it describes the caring chaos that forms Anna's life. She is open, and always has room to care for one more person. I love her heart so much. Please consider volunteering or donating to her organization!