Each year AWE commits a day to giving back to our communities. In past years we’ve all gathered in Los Angeles and volunteered with The Downtown Women’s Center, Los Angeles Family Housing, and Enrich LA. This year each team stayed within their respective regions to have an even greater footprint.

The New York cohort spent the day with RDJ Refugee Shelter, which is currently the only shelter in NYC specifically for homeless asylum seekers and refugees. This is important a key fact because shelters tend to be a dangerous place for some groups of people such as those with minimal knowledge of English, those who identify LBTQ+, and those who have no familial safety net. RDJ’s clients have no access to public funds or benefits. The shelter realizes this lack and offers housing, holistic care, support, and advocacy for asylum seekers.

As of January 2018 RDJ has provided assistance to 39 clients from 19 countries who have fled their country due to persecution for the following reasons:

  • 12% religious
  • 12% political
  • 12% other
  • 64% LGBTQ

Of those who they assist:

  • 93% find permanent housing in 6-9 months
  • 89% find legal presentation for their legal cases
  • 74% find employment during their stay

The day of volunteering included preparing the food pantry for service and then helping folks shop for groceries with their vouchers. Yael Utt, AWE’s Managing Director, East Coast said that her favorite part of the day was, “working with volunteers – who were literally people who had been in the system, endured the cycle of homelessness, and gotten out – and who are now giving back to their community with so much empathy and love.”

The Los Angeles team spent the day at Alexandria House –  a transitional home that offers support to women and children during transitional periods. During their 21 years in service they have helped over 200 families find financial security and permanent housing. Beyond their work in homelessness, they are also a neighborhood community center, offering educational and enrichment opportunities to neighbors as well as residents.

Once leaving Alexandria House, former residents are still supported to ensure that they thrive and remain in their homes. More than 78% of families that have lived in the house have remained in permanent housing.

The numbers speak volumes about the impact of Alexandria House in the last year:

  • 10 families in residence (including 23 kids)
  • 11 single women in residence
  • 76 families receiving supportive services (including 140 children)
  • 51 youth participants in the after school and teen program
  • 35 children participating in their vacation camp program (spring/summer/winter)
  • 102 past residents actively involved in Alexandria House programs
  • 1,350+ people served by the neighborhood programs

The AWE team worked with roughly 30 kids at the summer camp ranging in ages from 2-15 years old. We played games to teach communication, eye contact, and spacial awareness; danced until our feet hurt; made ice cream sundaes; shared stories; and learned about lives different and similar to our own. Jameelah Nuriddin, AWE’s Accelerator Program Coordinator, said that her favorite part of the day was, “connecting with the kids, looking into their eyes and realizing that that work we do is helping to create a better world for the next generation.”

All of us at AWE feel truly privileged and grateful to be welcomed by these organizations and to have new insight into the work that they do to create positive change in the community. Thank you, RDJ Refugee Shelter and Alexandria House for giving us the opportunity to spend a day in your shoes and for the continued impact that you have every single day.