Several refugee families from war-torn areas of the globe will be coming to live in the Hudson Valley as part of an effort to address the worst refugee crisis since World War II. The Mid-Hudson Refugee Solidarity Alliance will announce details of the new refugee resettlement program – the first of its kind in the Hudson Valley - at a special meeting Sunday, November 6, 4 pm – 6 pm on the second floor of the Students’ Building, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY.
The Hudson Valley’s first refugee families - most of whom are anticipated to have fled Afghanistan and Iraq - are expected to arrive in early 2017.
“Initially, I wanted to get my students involved in thinking about our responsibilities to act in light of the crisis,” says Maria Höhn, professor of history at Vassar College and one of the founders of the Mid-Hudson Refugee Solidary Alliance. She mobilized a core group of student leaders to engage students on campus and they started to reach out to local congregations who welcomed the invitation to be involved.
Since last April, the Alliance has been working with the refugee resettlement agency, Church World Service (CWS).
The Alliance is comprised of Vassar College, SUNY New Paltz, Dutchess Community College, Mount Saint Mary College, and Bard College. Three faith-based organizations—Poughkeepsie’s Vassar Temple and Christ Episcopal Church, Masjid al-Noor Mosque in Wappingers Falls—as well as the Dutchess County Interfaith Council and the Greater Newburgh Interfaith Council, are involved, and more congregations are eager to get on board.
At the meeting, the Mid-Hudson Alliance will introduce the resettlement project, and CWS representative Brianne Casey will explain the process by which refugees have been chosen and how resettlement works. Volunteers will be able to sign up to be involved, and can find out what they might be able to contribute in terms of furniture and household goods.
The Alliance also welcomes new partners. “We hope that this partnership between local colleges and faith-based and other community groups might eventually serve as a model for others interested in getting involved,” says Höhn.
Rabbi Leah Berkowitz of Vassar Temple is happy to be part of this endeavor: “We are committed to continuing the proud tradition of welcoming refugees and giving those who flee persecution the opportunity to build better lives here in the United States.”
Christ Episcopal Church’s Reverend Susan Fortunato echoes that sentiment. "Our church believes that it is our responsibility to lend a hand to the most vulnerable in our society. It is hard to escape the necessity of responding to the humanitarian crisis that has emerged as people flee civil war and persecution,” Fortunato explains. “We believe that our faith requires us to reach out to these people with hospitality, generosity, and faith that God will help us to provide for their needs.”
“The Mid Hudson Islamic Association is committed to assisting refugees resettle in the Hudson Valley,”says Dr. Umar Ahmad of Masjid Al-Noor Mosque in Wappingers Falls. “In the 1990's we helped resettle families who were fleeing the Bosnian war, and had reached the Hudson Valley. Some are still living here.”
By the time refugees are cleared for the U.S. resettlement program, they will have been thoroughly vetted by the State Department and Homeland Security for about two years.
About the Mid Hudson Refugee Solidarity Alliance
The Alliance is comprised of colleges and faith-based organizations in the Mid Hudson Valley, including Christ Episcopal Church, Dutchess Community College, Dutchess County Interfaith Council, Greater Newburgh Interfaith Council, Masjid Al-Noor mosque, Mount Saint Mary College, SUNY New Paltz, Vassar College, and Vassar Temple. The Alliance works to support refugees, mobilize the community, and increase overall education and awareness about the refugee crisis.
Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.