Member Stories

Neighbors Across the Country Head Online to Help Local Refugees

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Written by Anne Dreshfield

Over the past few weeks, neighbors across the country have done the unexpected to help local refugees in their communities by heading online.

For many, the inspiration came long before the recent executive orders banning refugees from coming to the United States.

“I just remember seeing all these stories about the refugees and their families and how sad it was, especially with kids,” says Lori Thompson, a neighbor in Austin, Texas. “I have a kid, and it just breaks my heart to see these kids going through all this stuff.”

Her neighbor, Suma Aithal, had recently been introduced to one such family, and posted to Nextdoor asking her neighbors for donations of household items such as bedding, pots and pans, and kids clothing. Lori responded, and when she dropped off a few items, found out more about the refugee family from Syria. Interested in doing more to support the family, she asked if they needed help with anything else.

“We all need to see each other as human beings, with love and respect.”
The family asked for a few pieces of furniture, so Lori took to Nextdoor again to see if anyone could donate. The response was overwhelming.we all need to see each other as human beings with love and respect,” says Suma.

“I could not believe the response we got, with beds and all these things people were giving,” she says.

Within a few days, so many items were donated that Lori and Suma teamed up to start giving away extra items to other refugee families scattered throughout Austin.

“Putting humanity before everything else, stepping up to what your core beliefs are – we all need to see each other as human beings, with love and respect,” says Suma.

Neighbors in Salt Lake City, Utah had a similar experience with a group of young refugees who were a part of the Utah Refugee Boy Scouts program. The boys ranged in age from 11 to 16, and came from about 15 different countries from around the world.

A few of the young Boy Scouts.

The group was planning a camping trip in the mountains and realized they didn’t have enough winter weather gear for the troop to safely camp out. Scott Brown, the co-chair of the committee, posted a bulletin at his local church asking for donations of any sort. A friendly neighbor happened upon it and asked if she could post it on Nextdoor.

Within an hour, the committee was receiving donations of new or barely-used equipment.

“In about 3 or 4 days, I had 20 pairs of boots, 30 pairs of gloves, and hats and coats and scarves and other winter gear,” says Scott.

All told, about 30 young boys went on the camping trip. Many of them had never seen snow before, and learned survival skills and earned Boy Scout merit badges along the way.

“We want them to have the experience that any other American young man has,” says Scott. “We want them to have the opportunity to become part of our country. They’re not different than we are. They think about the same things, they care about the same things – that they’re good kind human beings, just like everyone else.”


Find your neighborhood on Nextdoor here.

Do you have a story about how you’ve used Nextdoor in your neighborhood? Let us know.

Originally reported by CBS Austin and ABC Salt Lake City.

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