THRIVE in North Hills provides assistance and donations to refugees

THRIVE Pittsburgh helps refugees, immigrants and asylum seekers coming to the United States by providing them with basic necessities and the support they need to start over.

These individuals and families arrive in Pittsburgh with next to nothing after fleeing their home or country or after living for years in a refugee camp, according to Pauline Spring, director of the THRIVE program located at North Hills Community Baptist Church in Ross Township. .

“They come with what they can carry. Some had to give up everything else, ”she said.

THRIVE – acronym for Together Helping Refugees and Immigrants Via E-crowdsourcing – is a non-profit organization created in 2018.

Local resettlement agencies, such as AJAPO Refugee Services in Pittsburgh, provide referrals for new refugees or asylum seekers coming to the United States. AJAPO stands for Acculturation for Access to Justice and Peace Awareness.

Even before the family or individual arrives, THRIVE creates an online sign-up ‘wish list’ for everyday basics, such as shower curtains, pots and pans, dishes, garbage cans, bedding and more. Donors can purchase the items and have them dropped off or delivered to the church. Gift cards can be given to purchase items.

Donations are used to create a house or apartment, coordinated by AJAPO, for a family or person before their arrival.

Hess said each family member receives $ 1,225 from the federal government to use for rent, a security deposit, furniture, household items and other needs. However, THRIVE donations can free up money to be used for other items, such as bus passes or winter clothing.

“We see real people here with the same needs and wants as we do,” Spring said.

AJAPO serves around 300 people in all of its programs.

Spring said asylum seekers are generally fleeing intolerable conditions in their home countries, which can be caused by religious persecution, tribal strife or family strife. They can flee on foot. These may be refugees who have lived in refugee camps for up to 15 or 20 years and apply for permanent residence, or they may seek to stay after a government issued visa expires and apply for residency. permed.

“Most of these people have been through terrible things,” Hess said.

AJAPO services include medical, transportation, employment, school enrollment, childcare, government ID and other social services for up to five years after arrival. an individual or a family. Refugees must find homes, jobs and school enrollment for all children within 90 days, in line with requirements set by the federal government for all services to be provided, Hess said.

While people may need help early on, the goal of THRIVE and AJAPO is independence.

“We help people become productive members of society, send their children to school, get an education and pay their bills on their own,” Hess said.

THRIVE offers programs to introduce newcomers to the community. THRIVE offers immigrants a space to share their culture through food through a Supper Club. Families can sell tickets for these events and keep the proceeds from the tickets.

THRIVE creates welcome bags for children, infants up to 18 years old, which contain age-appropriate items such as night lights, toothpaste and toothbrushes for children, plush toys and blankets for the youngest. . Or snacks, hygiene items, small games and hairbrushes or combs for the older ones.

Divina Joseph’s children received welcome bags upon their arrival in September. Originally from the Congo, Joseph and his family fled due to personal conflict and lived for eight years in a refugee camp in Kenya where they had to learn to communicate and live with people of over 20 nationalities, a he declared.

With no relatives here, Joseph, 30, said the family were very happy with the help they received. His children are delighted to go to school, because at the camp there were around 100 students per class, he said.

His wife works full time. Joseph holds a degree in public administration from Southern New Hampshire University through the Global Education Movement, with experience in research and office management. He also graduated from Regis University in Social Work through Jesuit Worldwide Learning.

“We’re just happy. We’ve waited so long, ”said Joseph, whose mother tongue is French but is fluent in English. Coming from a warmer country where it rains about once a year, the biggest challenge for the family is getting used to the Pittsburgh weather.

Other THRIVE partner churches include Memorial Park Church and St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, both located in Allison Park; St. Brendan’s Episcopal Church in Franklin Park and the North Hills Unitarian Universalist Church on West Ingomar Road, Spring said.

For those who wish to donate items, maintains wish lists. Monetary donations can also be made through

Natalie Beneviat is an associate of Trib Total Media.

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