Sloane Davidson, Founder of Local Refugee Support Organization, Visits Obama

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Sloane Davidson, Founder of Local Refugee Support Organization, Visits Obama

Sloane Davidson | Photo credit: The M Dash

Sloane Davidson | Photo credit: The M Dash

Sloane Davidson | Photo credit: The M Dash

Sloane Davidson | Photo credit: The M Dash

Sam Bisno, Editor-in-Chief

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Last Friday, December 6, Sloane Davidson, founder of local nonprofit Hello Neighbor, visited Obama as part of the school’s speaker series.

Hello Neighbor supports refugees that have recently arrived in Pittsburgh as they situate themselves in their new environments. Their flagship program, referred to by Davidson as “mentorship,” connects refugees with neighboring families for assistance with the day-to-day challenges of entering into American society.

Davidson explained that while there do exist some public resources for refugees, most aid stops 90 days after emigration. Mentors, then, meet with refugee families for 10 hours per month for half a year — time spent doing any number of things, from going to a Pirates game to sifting through the mail, which presents a real challenge for migrants who are still learning English. 

She said that most refugees are forced to pack up their things and abandon their homes overnight, walking for miles in search of safety. But the challenges don’t stop once they’ve found their way to the States. “Most families are isolated. They’re living in one-room apartments this big,” she said, gesturing towards Obama’s auditorium stage. “Maybe the dad goes out to work, but the mom often stays at home all day.” She stressed to Obama students the importance of not taking what they have for granted.

Davidson, who has spent much of her life abroad, was inspired to start Hello Neighbor after she grew close with a family of Syrian refugees in 2017. Her first cohort consisted of 25 families, but the organization has since grown to serve more than 90, originating from a dozen different countries: Myanmar, Bhutan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Sudan, South Sudan, Algeria, Ivory Coast, and Somalia.

Davidson said she’s always looking for volunteers. If you’re interested, visit Hello Neighbor’s website.

Next month’s speaker will be Juan José Fernández of the Pittsburgh Comics Salon.