"Refugee," "Displaced Person," "Newcomer." Which would you prefer to be called if you were in a situation where you had to flee your home with only what you could carry and go to another country with a different language and customs? No doubt that most of us would prefer to be known as "Newcomers." If you would like to be a "Welcomer" to the "Newcomers" the folks at Welcome.Us can help.
Welcome.US is a new nonpartisan, nonprofit national initiative built to inspire, mobilize, and empower Americans from all corners of the country to welcome and support those seeking refuge here.
"We began with our new Afghan neighbors and have expanded to those fleeing Ukraine, while also building a durable capacity and ability to welcome other newcomers. We operate on the evidence that direct participation with newcomers transforms both the welcomer and those being welcomed. Our ultimate ambition is for every American community – and the nation as a whole – to have the resources and willingness to welcome newcomers, now and in the future." according to their website.
The honorary chairs of Welcome.Us include former presidents Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama and former first ladies Rosalyn Carter, Laura Bush, Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama.
You or your organization can apply to become a welcomer or sponsor. Sponsors help by making sure the individual or family they are sponsoring has the resources they need to start a new life in the United States – including meeting newcomers at the airport and providing initial transport, finding housing, setting up their new home with furniture, acquiring household supplies, clothing, and groceries, and helping identify a healthcare provider, find employment, and enroll kids in school, including by connecting families to local public health agencies for age-appropriate vaccinations, if necessary. You must also commit to supporting them financially during their two year stay. Newcomers are eligible to obtain employment once they arrive but they are not eligible for most financial assistance programs supported by federal or local government.
"Sponsors can be U.S. citizens, permanent residents or other lawfully present individuals. Sponsors may apply as individuals, as a group, or as a representative of a non-governmental agency (such as a non-profit, educational institution, or employer). You do not need to be related to a Ukrainian to apply to be a sponsor. Sponsors must be approved by the U.S. government, including the successful completion of security vetting and demonstration of financial resources available to support the newcomer," according to the website. The process of being approved begins with contacting "Uniting For Ukraine." This federal program streamlines the immigration process for Ukrainian newcomers and allows U.S. citizens and residents to sponsor Ukrainian refugees under different immigration statuses. The online portal, open to potential sponsors or organizations, is accepting applications and has received more than 4,000 requests so far. according to CNN.
Here are the important links to the U.S. government documents
to review and complete if you would like to become a sponsor courtesy of https://ukraine.welcome.us/explainer#newsletter:
· Review the eligibility requirements now available on the USCIS website.
· Review instructions for completing Form I-134, Declaration of Financial Support.
· Complete Form I-134, Declaration of Financial Support
If you are unable to become a sponsor but would like to help, there are still many things you can do to help Ukrainian newcomers feel welcome and acclimated to your community. Really, it is about making new friends and giving of your time to show them around, and meet the need that you would have if you found yourself in the same situation. Welcome.US provides a list of local agencies for each state where you may volunteer in this capacity at https://welcome.us/volunteer
Airbnb provides another way to help out. If you have a spare room in your home or an apartment that you would like to provide at a discounted rate or for free for a two week period until the newcomer has found more permanent accommodations, Airbnb makes that possible through their nonprofit. In 2012, a Host named Shell opened her home to people impacted by Hurricane Sandy. That kind gesture sparked a movement that led to Hosts on Airbnb providing free stays for people in times of need, and eventually evolved into Airbnb.org, an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit.
"Over the last decade, Airbnb.org and our Host community have helped and housed tens of thousands of people, including refugees, those seeking shelter following natural disasters, and frontline workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last year, Airbnb.org announced the creation of a Refugee Fund and galvanized more than 4,000 donors and Hosts offering free and discounted stays—further supporting its work with refugees and asylum seekers worldwide and Airbnb.org has committed to funding and facilitating free, short-term housing for up to 100,000 refugees fleeing Ukraine," according to their website.
You may become a host and list what you have to offer on their website. They will not take any commission and they will provide you with a cleaning fee if you offer your space at a low rate but not if you list it for free. They will also cover you with damage protection called "AirCover."
Getting protected through AirCover
"AirCover is top-to-bottom protection that provides up to $1 million USD in damage protection and $1 million USD in liability insurance. It's always included and always free whenever you host. Host damage protection, a part of AirCover, provides Hosts with $1 million USD in coverage in the rare event your place or belongings are damaged by a guest during a stay. Host liability insurance, also a part of AirCover, provides Hosts with $1 million USD in coverage in the rare event a guest gets hurt or their belongings are damaged or stolen while they're staying at your place." Their website states. For more information go to: https://www.airbnb.org/help-ukraine?_ga=2.1081911.72442992.1653578586-706122316.1652458211
The opportunity to be a force for good and make a difference in someone's life is a blessing to all parties involved. If we all work together we can make those Ukrainians who are relocating here less stressful and spread the love to some of those who need it the most at this time.
Andrea Hartley is a former newspaper reporter for The Hammonton News, former columnist for Atlantic City Press, and freelance writer. She also published The Lehigh Valley Woman's Journal for 8 years until she went back to school and earned her MFA in Creative Writing and wrote, The Vietnam War: A Dream Amidst the Nightmare in 2017.
Welcome to the discussion.