“We are humbled by the generosity that has been extended to us and our family. [This organization] has served to restore our hope for tomorrow. On behalf of the family, many thanks and may God continue to bless the work that the organization does. The impact that it has had on this one family is priceless.”
Shoshana Akabas, founder of New Neighbors Clothing Partnership.
This moving testimonial is one of dozens from refugee families praising the work of the New Neighbors Clothing Partnership (NNCP), a New York City-based program that matches newly arrived refugee families with local families who have slightly older kids and can pass on hand-me-down clothing donations.
Because refugees only receive three months of resettlement agency support when they arrive, after which they often struggle, this initiative is particularly important to its founder, Shoshana Akabas.
“I want to make sure New York remains a haven for refugees,” says Akabas. “So many people in New York want to help their new neighbors but don’t know how. My initiative forges connections between New Yorkers that might not have otherwise met, helps fold newcomers into the fabric of the city, and provides efficient material support to a needy population.”
Akabas, who volunteered for the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society as a college undergrad, started the program with her own time and money while studying as a full-time graduate student at Columbia University. Wanting to stay involved with refugee work, she set up this network for local parents to partner with refugee parents. When the financial burden became too great for Akabas, she applied for a grant from TPP, which she was awarded in November of 2018.
Since then, the results of her efforts have been tremendous. In just 18 months, $70,000 worth of clothes and related items have been donated to refugee kids in New York City. More than 100 partnerships have been established between local families and their new neighbors, and they’re serving families from over a dozen countries, including Afghanistan, Chad, Ukraine, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Honduras, China, the Philippines, El Salvador, Tajikistan, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Guinea, Russia, Egypt, Kyrgyzstan, Zanzibar, and Ghana.
The dozens of stories shared with Akabas as a result of her work have been both powerful and emotional: “The initiative has served dozens of families: A father who served as a translator for the U.S. military and had to flee with his children once he was discovered by the Taliban, a journalist who had to escape to the U.S. with her daughter because she was threatened for exposing injustices in her home country, a pregnant mother who was trafficked through Western Africa and made it safely to New York…each family has their own story and their own struggles, and our program hopefully helps make it a little easier for them to settle into their new home.”
With such success, Akabas’s plans for the future are both ambitious and goal-oriented: she hopes that all newly arrived refugees and asylees are partnered with local families who can provide hand-me-down clothes and a sense of support. She is striving to start a non-profit to make just that happen.
In the meantime, Akabas is continuing in her quest to provide support to New York City’s hundreds of refugees—an act that she knows is especially timely.
“At a time when our country is so divided, I feel strongly about not only making refugees feel welcome and helping them resettle here, but also helping them forge connections between people who are different and with whom they may not have otherwise interacted.”
TPP thanks Shoshana for her incredible work with refugees from all over the globe. If you’d like to support her work, please visit www.NewNeighborsClothingPartnership.com