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News and Needs

News & Needs

Current Needs

July 2024

  • 2 dining tables + chairs
  • 2 sofas
  • coffee table
  • 2 end tables
  • rugs
  • lamps
  • desk
  • bedroom furniture

To donate these items please contact us at or use our in-kind donations form.

Furniture Needed!

July 10, 2024

In the next month, three Afghan friends who Open Arms helped bring together are moving onward and upward. They are leaving the tiny two-bedroom apartment they happily shared, despite its lack of a proper living room, dining room or kitchen table, for new digs. Two of the young women will continue to be roommates in a well-located basement apartment in White Plains. The third is seeking a two-bedroom apartment in Ossining to share with her parents whom she is resettling in America.

This is indeed progress and a wonderful transition. But now two apartments worth of furniture are needed:

  • 2 sofas, a coffee table, some side chairs, 2 end tables, 2 dining tables plus chairs, several
    rugs, lamps, a modest but modern desk, and bedroom furniture for the parents.

Perhaps you have friends or family members moving out or redecorating, who would want their well-loved furnishings to bring joy to deserving folks building a new life in America. If so, contact us at

The Graduate

June 25, 2024


Mostafa graduated from Ossining High School last weekend. He was born in Iran as a refugee from Afghanistan and has been a refugee all his life. He first arrived in New York in December 2023, at age 18, and was welcomed with his 20-year-old sister into the homes of Open Arms volunteers, to keep the siblings out of the NYC shelter system.


In the ensuing months, Open Arms helped resettle their uncle’s family in Ossining so they could all support each other. Mostafa formally and legally applied for asylum and enrolled in Ossining High School. He understood that his job was to succeed in school, which he did. He also joined the Robotics Club, made friends at First Village Coffee, and often helps Open Arms as a translator. He’s a thoughtful young man, an aspiring doctor, and he has the smarts and personal drive to do that.


It isn’t easy to learn in a foreign language and he has had more than his share of trauma. The U.S. puts up barriers; because his passport is being held, he was unable to take the TOEFL exam required by most colleges. Yet he got himself accepted to two colleges and plans to attend Westchester Community College in the fall. He received a partial scholarship there on awards night and is applying for other scholarships. 


Congratulations to Mostafa. We do not know what the future holds for him, but he is off to an impressive start.

An American Story

June 12, 2024

Last weekend, Zia, Nabila and their three children joined Open Arms volunteers to celebrate the one-year anniversary of their arrival in Putnam County, from Afghanistan via Pakistan.


Having escaped the Taliban, they now have a warm and welcoming home, which they have truly made their own. Their kids are in school and learning. They’ve addressed important health issues. The family’s English gets better every month, and they seek out instruction to fill any gaps.


Zia has a good job that pays the rent and feeds the family; his work assisting young women in Pakistan and Afghanistan also makes a difference in the lives of others. The family has made good friends, in the Museum and Afghan communities, and in the broader American community.


Our goal for our new neighbors is self sufficiency and independence. Barely a year into their American journey, Zia and his family have achieved this goal and more, and we congratulate them.

Skilled workers ready and able – intros needed!

June 5, 2024

With six asylum seeking families recently settled in homes, school and ESL classes, jobs are now the big focus. Here are some great workers available through the Open Arms jobs coaching team:

  • Civil Engineering: Three experienced Civil Engineers, knowledgeable about US Army Corp of Engineers standards, and with OSHA and other certifications.
  • Construction: Four individuals have line construction experience, from demolition to fine home improvement work.
  • Food Service: Two of our new neighbors (one in Peekskill) are trained in food prep.  
  • Drivers: We have three licensed drivers, ready for Amazon etc.; three others are getting licenses soon.
  • IT: One new arrival has a very strong IT background and is helping Open Arms improve our database.
  • More skills: An experienced barista, a former teacher, a medical professional are also ready to work, and entry level is just fine. We also have two trained home health aides and an accomplished welder from Colombia.

Each of these motivated adults has work authorization and a SSN. They just want to work and support their families while improving their English and building a new life. 


Do you have a connection we can use, in their professions or in other entry level positions? Let us know at


Please see our list above for the most updated list of needs.

Moving Day (x3)

Furniture and Household Items Still Needed

April 11, 2024

Last week, we reported on setting up homes for three new families thanks to Open Arms’ Home Furnishings Committee.


Just today, one family was met by Open Arms volunteers and brought out of the NYC shelter system to a welcoming new home in Westchester. More leases should be signed within the week as our other families prepare to move, and we continue to be in need of basic furniture of all types


Please see our list above for the most updated list of needs.

How Houses Become Homes

Furniture and Household Items Still Needed

April 3, 2024

Last week, we alluded to “the fun stuff,” including the step of setting up housekeeping for our new neighbors. We’ve already met with the three newest families, either by zoom or in person, and are now busy furnishing apartments to fit their specifc needs.


Open Arms’ Home Furnishings Committee, helmed by Laurel Cates and Lisa Fickenscher, organizes the search, selecting items and arranging for their pick-up and delivery. With three new apartments in process at once, it is a complicated endeavor. Mattresses and bedding are new, but most other furniture will be gently-loved pieces donated by generous people. Our Furnishings team also checks out thrift stores and shops the Internet as needed to assemble a simple, functional space that is also warm and welcoming. Considering the arduous paths our new friends have taken to safety, not to mention their extended stays in the NYC shelter system, our volunteers’ hearts are full just by putting flatware in a drawer or fresh sheets on a bed.


Here’s what is still needed for the apartments being readied for three families:

• microwave and toaster

• coffee maker

• large storage cabinet for dining room (3’ wide x 6-7’ high)

• TV, narrow TV table

• kitchen pots, pans, utensils (preferably new)

• 1 living room chair

• 2 desk chairs

• nightstands for 2 bedrooms

• bedroom lamps

• two 8×10 rugs – for kids’ room and living room

• two 9×12 rugs – for main bedroom and dining room

• TV stand

• 2 bicycles

Landlords Assist “Westchester Welcome”

Basic Furniture Needed

March 27, 2024

Late in 2023, Open Arms asked the David Swope Fund to support a new program called Westchester Welcome, helping Afghans who had fled the Taliban to move from the overburdened NYC shelter system to Westchester for decent housing, jobs, and new lives as our neighbors. An advantage of the program is that we get to meet each other before the families decide to move here. 


Seven Afghan families have now been resettled under this program: four sponsored by Neighbors for Refugees, one by White Plains-based ICNAW, and two in Ossining by Open Arms. Last week we and two families had handshakes with the landlords for two apartments in Ossining, and we made an offer in Peekskill for a third family. There are 14 other Afghan families being pushed out of the shelters that we and our partners are urgently trying to assist.


Under the program, which includes support from Neighbors Link, the families are moving forward. These are people who want to work, want their kids settled in school, and want to be part of the community. As one landlord said, they aren’t going back to Afghanistan. We owe them a chance. We want to thank the David Swope fund, and all our donors, volunteers, and landlords for having the vision to support this work.


An explanation of Ramadan by Ola Nosseir, Open Arms volunteer

March 20, 2024

Ramadan, observed by Muslims all over the world, is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. It began at sundown on March 10, and ends on the evening of April 9. During Ramadan, people slow down and spend more time in self-reflection, self-improvement, prayer and reading the Quran. Fasting from food, drink, and intimacy from dawn to sunset teaches self-control. If one gets angry or uses their tongue in a bad way, their fast doesn’t count and must be made up.


Muslims give much of their charity during this month. When we feel weak and lightheaded at the end of the day, it teaches us to be humble and grateful for the meal we will have when the sun sets, unlike the poor, who can feel this hunger for days. We break our fast with three dates and some water, then do the evening prayer and eat the rest of the meal known as Iftar.”


What should non-Muslims do or not do; what’s an appropriate greeting?

  • Do not eat or drink in front of fasting people.
  • Saying Happy Blessed Ramadan, Ramadan Kareem or Ramadan Mubarak is lovely.

At what age is it customary for children to start fasting?

  • Most families start slowly with younger children, like asking if they want to miss a snack. By age 10, children can start but every family is different.

Sister Ola Nosseir is the founder of Our Common Beliefs –

Westchester Celebrates Afghan Arts and Culture

March 6, 2024

ArtsWestchester’s “Afghanistan Arts and Culture Day” on February 24 was a fun and engaging event. “Hands on” henna and weaving workshops, an elegant fashion show showcasing traditional dress of all ages, and stunning displays of rugs and other art and crafts for sale were among the many musical, arts, and cultural offerings. A highlight of the afternoon was the community potluck of delicious Afghan dishes. Kids played, moms connected and men shared hopes for work and life as they also wrangled the little ones.


In the evening, a concert by the talented Fanoos Ensemble began with a moving song of loss in Dari from a poem by Persian poet Rumi. Only afterward could the English speakers google a translation “lamenting…banishment from one’s home” and “the pangs of my yearning for my home.”  The music then brightened, celebrating the country’s beauty and its people, with colorful songs from various provinces, ethnic groups and Afghan popular culture. In contrast, the Taliban have banned any musical


The music reflected the dichotomy of the Afghan experience, the refugee experience. The deep, inescapable loss, yet the ability to find beauty and even joy in the world and share that with others. These are our new friends and neighbors, and it was a privilege to be with them and enjoy a glimpse of their beautiful culture.

New York Times Cites Open Arms Client for Resilience and Success

February 24, 2024

In past bulletins we have already singled out Najib, a recent refugee from Afghanistan who, within months of his own arrival, has supported other Afghans in NYC’s shelter system. We are inspired by his resilience and generosity, and can now add that he has been featured in a New York Times article:

“One recent arrival to Westchester is Najib Arsalan, 37, an engineer from Afghanistan who fled the Taliban and with his family undertook a journey of biblical dimensions. They walked for 40 days through mountains and deserts to reach Turkey, enduring nights so cold they burned extra clothes to stay warm.

They received visas to go to Brazil and lived at an airport in São Paulo, then in a refugee camp in the jungle. After crossing the U.S. border, they lived in a shelter in New York City for six months, and through the relocation program, got an apartment this year in Ossining.

While waiting for his work permit, Mr. Arsalan volunteered with groups that help migrants resettle. Recently, he started a job as a geotechnical engineer.

‘I don’t have any words to express my feeling of how lucky we are,’ he said.”

Rubenstein, Dana, et al. “Why a $25 Million Plan to Relocate N.Y.C. Migrant Families Is Struggling." The New York Times, Feb 25, 2024.

Najib’s dedication to helping other refugees find housing and begin building new lives is inspiring, and we are grateful for his example. 

Open Arms in the News

February 15, 2024

As Open Arms continues to acquaint neighboring towns with the important work of
resettling newcomers to enrich these communities, we have recently attracted the
attention of River Journal. Several weeks ago, journalist Steve Pavlopoulos covered “a
thriving collaborative effort enabled by volunteers throughout the (Westchester) county.”


In his piece “Welcoming Refugees with Open Arms” (link to article here), Pavlopoulos reported how “resettlement work supports refugees who need to acclimate and integrate quickly to achieve self-sufficiency.” He goes on to explain that 90+ volunteers are “divided into 13 specialized areas that cover everything from life essentials to more nuanced needs like healthcare, employment and building a sense of belonging in their new community.”


The article singles out one volunteer, Freshta, as the first refugee Open Arms resettled. Her commitment to learn English rapidly and resume her legal career is inspiring. Wanting to help make the path easier for others, she is now a highly valued Open Arms volunteer and mentor. “I can drive them, talk with them in their language,” she says. “Some refugees from Afghanistan can’t speak English, so I can help them with anything I can do, and I want to help.”

Meeting the Needs of Our Newest Neighbors

September 6, 2023

As noted last week, an Afghan family of five arrived in Ossining over Labor Day weekend. They were warmly welcomed and are now settled in a simply furnished apartment, which volunteers spruced up with a bright tablecloth, bedspreads, paintings and some flowers. The dad is commuting four days a
week as a volunteer at Loves Kitchen while he awaits work authorizations. The three kids and the mom are eagerly developing their English. The family is happy and very grateful to be here.


Our 11th resettlement, a single man with “Special Immigrant Visa” status for assisting Americans in Afghanistan, will arrive at JFK on September 20. He speaks English. As an SIV, he should get his work permit quickly. We will buy a twin bed, towels and linens (all must be new), and are seeking donations of a dresser, bedside table, rice cooker, bookcase and a not-too-heavy side table for the dining room.


To help our newest neighbors with their commutes, we are also looking for an e-scooter, a bike and, if dreams come true, an inexpensive car.


If you can help on any of these, please let us know at

Summer Reflections

August 30, 2023

As summer winds down, we remember the fall of Kabul two years ago. There, an American soldier reached down at Abbey Gate and lifted a women’s rights advocate over the wall, hours before a suicide bomber closed that gate permanently. Four months later, Open Arms welcomed that young woman, apprehensive but hopeful, to Ossining.

She and her Afghan roommate are now financially self sufficient and our good friends. This weekend they will celebrate Labor Day with us as Open Arms volunteers welcoming an Afghan family of five to Ossining. This will be our tenth resettlement, each different but each replacing certain persecution with safety, welcome and the possibilities of a new life.
Last week, two Colombian families we have assisted enjoyed a pool party and BBQ at Mariandale. The beautiful normalcy of this, the laughter as we sat and ate and talked, is not lost on us.
Please enjoy your Labor Day, and reflect on the new lives that your support of Open Arms is making possible.

Looking Back

July 26, 2023

Eighteen months ago, we met Freshta at JFK and drove her to her new home and a new life.  Food, shelter, and healthcare were immediate needs, but equally reassurance that she was in a safe place with people who cared about her.

Nine households have now begun that hopeful but uncertain journey, with the volunteers of Open Arms at their side. They take ESL classes, see too many doctors and dentists, learn about their new community, get kids in schools, and search for jobs. Motivated and hardworking, they soon become financially self-sufficient, contributing members of their new community. They feel the loss of family left behind, but they are building their new lives here.
As volunteers, we see our new neighbors’ strength every day and are in awe.  We are touched when they now console us in our times of pain or loss. We know how blessed we are that they have come to be part of our communities and of  our lives.  
We also are grateful to all the congregations and other supporting organizations who have been fundamental to this community-wide welcome called Open Arms For Refugees. Thank you for being part of this work.

Afghan Moms Need Our Support

June 21, 2023

In many cases, Afghan moms coming to the US speak little or no English. The husband or dad of the family may speak some, but once he starts working, as is the goal, the woman feels cut off and alone.  


Diane Mohit, an Open Arms volunteer who speaks Farsi, organized a new initiative to help them – forming a beginners’ English class, taught by an Afghan teacher, to meet three times a week via Zoom. The class will begin and end with 15 minutes of socialization and be supported with afternoon sessions with volunteer language partners to review the morning class (and provide further social contact).


To kick off the program, Diane enlisted the help of several volunteers to organize a “meet, greet and of course, eat”program last Saturday. It was attended by four moms, a mom-to-be, two husbands and nine children. A good time was had by all, but it was the women who obviously relished the chance to socialize, talk and laugh, which means the same thing in every language. 


The moms are eager for the Zoom English classes to start, and their husbands are supportive. Diane has other plans including getting the moms together in person in pairs.


If you would like to help the moms (and their kids) as a language partner or a playground host, contact us at


“Sunset Soiree” Succeeds on the Hudson 

May 30, 2023

Open Arms’ “Sunset Soiree” was a full house, quite literally, as volunteers, supporters and our New Neighbors shared an evening of Afghan, Colombian and Ukrainian food, music, much conversation and a beautiful sunset over the Hudson.


We did share a little information about our New Neighbors, including their strong work ethic and that every family we have settled has achieved financial self-sufficiency within seven months of arriving here. That financial self-sufficiency has also been achieved by two of the three families resettled in 2023. 


Equally moving were stories of our new friends supporting volunteers in moments of need; such is the stuff of true friendships and mutual caring in our community. And you could feel that affection at the event.


At $50 per ticket, the event was not planned as a fundraiser, nor were supplemental donations requested at the event. Yet over $20,000 was raised to support Open Arms’ work through unsolicited donations, contribution of many event costs, and the 2:1 match by the David Swope Fund. Important ‘in-kind’ donors included the Croton Yacht Club, Meals by Mahnaz, caterer Maryna Zabialo, Makondo Restaurant, Value Drug-Briarcliff, and Adam Moore and his bandmates, who donated the fine musical fare.

We do this as one community, and we are grateful to all for your support.


Finding Inspiration in Washington, DC

May 2, 2023


Last week in Washington, DC, 31 Afghan women from the US-trained  Female Tactical Platoon (FTP) were celebrated for their service. This included not just a special White House tour but also meetings with 3 sets of Senators and a visit to meet with generals at the Pentagon. 
The trip, supported by Sisters in Service and PenFed Foundation, who have helped support these strong women across the US, was a fun trip but also serious work. The women were there to gain support for a bi-partisan initiative to give women in the FTP program (and several of their members left behind in Afghanistan) an accelerated path to bring their families and fiancees to the US.
We understand that NY’s Senator Schumer, who helped rescue F in August 2021, supports this plan.  F’s friend N, an FTP member whom we are also assisting, said she also found Senator Cruz to be very kind and supportive. We think it is wonderful that our newest neighbors have inspired bipartisan support for this important initiative.

The Meaning of Asylum

April 26, 2022

We have great news:


600 days after she was lifted over the wall at Kabul Airport by a US soldier, 472 days after her arrival and welcome on January 8, 2022 in Ossining, nine months after detailing her painful history in writing (and then again in person) to USCIS, F, the first refugee we welcomed to the US, received notice in writing that she has been granted asylum status, effective April 19, 2023.


That’s a big day in part because now she is eligible for a green card and travel documents as of April 19, 2024. (She’ll apply shortly to avoid processing delays already plaguing USCIS.) Another four years and she can apply for US citizenship, and she plans to.  


But today is a day to celebrate. As pointed out by Karin Anderson, Director of Neighbors Link Community Law Practice who gave invaluable counsel and reassurance in the application process, F’s new status is permanent and irrevocable. She can stay in the US as long as she wants.


Knowing F’s story, we never doubted this day would come. But today feels great to us, and we can only imagine how she feels. Our heartfelt thanks to Neighbors Link and all the volunteers, donors and
Supporting Organizations who made this day possible.


And congratulations F! You so earned this.

A Special Thank You to Scarborough Presbyterian Church

April 12, 2022

On March 31, Open Arms for Refugees closed its first fiscal year as an IRS-approved 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.


As you know, Open Arms welcomed the first “new neighbor” in January, 15 months ago.  But at that time our tax exemption was based on “fiscal sponsorship” by Scarborough Presbyterian Church (known simply as Scarborough Church) which also oversaw our bank account and paid the bills we authorized. Our borrowing of a respected organization’s tax exemption and financial administration was a “best practice” recommended by philanthropic advisors. This not only saved us accounting and legal costs early on but enabled us to keep our focus on building
organizational capacity to serve federally vetted refugees.


Now, eight resettlements later, we pay tribute to Scarborough Church, its pastor Tim Ives and its office manager Natalie Carr-Harris for their invaluable contribution. Perhaps, as a donor to Open Arms in 2022, you received a tax acknowledgement letter from Scarborough Presbyterian. We heartily thank the church and its staff, who were there with us from our first days, as we seek to be for our newest neighbors.

A Taxing Time in America Transformed!

April 5, 2022

April 15th looms large in most of our minds. But for new arrivals from overseas, intent on following the law and meeting their obligations in this new country, the complexity of the US taxes is daunting.


Enter Open Arms volunteer Mary Ann Baiyor, who actually enjoys unraveling the puzzle of governmental bureaucracy, and CPA Elizabeth Brown, who, in an oversight role can assure Mary Ann that her work and the final returns will be correct.


Mary Ann is helping five first-time tax filers complete and roughly understand their US and NYS returns. Importantly, with Elizabeth’s help, she’s identified the earned income tax credits, child credits and relevant income and deductions, including whether these new taxpayers qualify for “resident alien,” “non-resident alien” or “dual-status alien” (And yes, it’s complicated!). That last question alone can make a difference of thousands of dollars and is easy to get wrong.


We want to thank Mary Ann and (at her busiest time of the year) Elizabeth for turning tax time from a time of trepidation to a learning experience and in most cases, some unexpected money in the bank. May we all have such a happy April 15.

Hope Springs Eternal!

March 14, 2022

Nowruz is an ancient festival of spring set on the vernal equinox, celebrated by Afghans and millions around the world for centuries. It’s a time of spiritual renewal and physical rejuvenation, of gratitude for blessings and hope and optimism for the new year.


We are told that the Taliban has banned celebrations of Nowruz in Afghanistan, but on Saturday night, March 18, 80-100 Afghans came together at Congregation Kol Ami in White Plains to share the joy of this long tradition. Masooma and her roommate, along with Freshta, Nazdana and Mina and newest arrivals Nazir and Diba were among those dancing, dining, and meeting new friends.


The event was organized by Open Arms volunteer Qudsia Haseq and two other Afghan women, with strong support from Hearts & Homes. It was great to see the many people we have worked with so comfortable with each other and happy in the moment.


Life is not easy in the US for our newest neighbors, hard at work on jobs, English and understanding a new culture. But the contrast between the world they left and the possibilities of the new life they have found here resonated. Nowruz, which translates to new year, is an apt metaphor.

Seeking Work through our Network

March 14, 2022

After 30 days of intensive English, including résumé development and community orientation, members of our newest family from Colombia are ready and eager to work:

  • Harold, a master welder who learned the skill at age 12 from his father, has built beautiful buildings and striking artwork.
  • Mom Vicky and her adult daughter Denise are both experienced with kids. Denise is certified in make-up, manicures and hairdressing and Vicky also does hair extensions.
  • Their eldest son, engaging and almost 19, has taught soccer to adults but also has a certificate in business from his Colombian high school. Now finishing high school, he needs a summer job.

While their English is still developing, all are ready for work and will take any full-time job. Walkable in Ossining or on the #14 or #19 line is preferable, but for the right job, they’ll make it work!


You are their network. Do you know of any positions? Please reach out to your contacts and let us know!

Open Arms Embraces Social Media

March 8, 2022

It’s exciting, compelling, inclusive, expansive. Thanks to the vision and efforts of co-founder Sofia Bator and volunteer Arianna Cruickshank, Open Arms is using social media to bring our multiple stories to life, starting on Instagram at open.arms.for.refugees. Instagram allows users to post and share pictures, videos, infographics, and messages. Visuals that are organized, informative, heartwarming, and authentic (“behind the scenes”) are known to be popular and effective forms of marketing on Instagram. 


What we expect to accomplish:

  • Educate the greater community about our mission, and create new connections with surrounding organizations, educational institutions, families, and individuals of all ages, including students.
  • Post “news & needs” flyers to collect needed household items, gift cards, toys, and other necessities.
  • Post event flyers which can easily be shared across Instagram by any user.
  • Inspire action by asking followers to come to an event, volunteer time and/or donate. 

How Open Arms Supporting Organization members can help:

We’re going to have a baby!

March 1, 2022

That is, Nazir and Diba, our newest neighbors, are expecting their first child in about 3 months. 
Nazir’s cousin, an Afghan refugee now living in Westchester, reached out to us with an urgent
need for airfare and housing for this Afghan couple, to get them safely out of Pakistan as soon
as possible. We and Neighbors for Refugees responded jointly in 48 hours. We look forward to
welcoming the family at JFK in early March. 


It’s a great partnership. Nazir and Diba will be living in Ossining initially, in our “launchpad” apartment where families can stay a month or six while they find the right job and permanent location. 


We are arranging English classes and have already signed the family up at Open Door for
healthcare. Neighbors will provide English tutors and a recently retired Ob/Neonatology RN to be the lead health volunteer. They will lead a long-term job search, mostly down county. Costs will be shared. It’s a nice fit.


We’ll tell you more about the family when we know them better. But for now, join us in welcoming Nazir and Diba, and the baby to come!

That is, Nazir and Diba, our newest neighbors, are expecting their first child in about 3 months. 
Nazir’s cousin, an Afghan refugee now living in Westchester, reached out to us with an urgent
need for airfare and housing for this Afghan couple, to get them safely out of Pakistan as soon
as possible. We and Neighbors for Refugees responded jointly in 48 hours. We look forward to
welcoming the family at JFK in early March. 


It’s a great partnership. Nazir and Diba will be living in Ossining initially, in our “launchpad” apartment where families can stay a month or six while they find the right job and permanent location. 


We are arranging English classes and have already signed the family up at Open Door for
healthcare. Neighbors will provide English tutors and a recently retired Ob/Neonatology RN to be the lead health volunteer. They will lead a long-term job search, mostly down county. Costs will be shared. It’s a nice fit.


We’ll tell you more about the family when we know them better. But for now, join us in welcoming Nazir and Diba, and the baby to come!

Learning English – The Key to Jobs and Long-Term Success

February 14, 2022

Six mornings a week, our newest neighbors from Colombia eagerly meet in a classroom for a two-hour English class. In the afternoons, and often in the evenings, too, volunteer “language partners” review and help them practice what they’ve been taught.


In between, family members have homework and time to play Duolingo, an addictive language app. Volunteers, mixing English and Spanish, also help them with school applications, work histories and shopping. These sessions reinforce what they learned about typical greeting language, numbers, and basic conversational phrases, and introduce new vocabulary.


Miraculously, this innovative and intensive English program has been organized in the last 30 days by Eileen Gallagher, ESL chair of Open Arms. Much of the program is fun, often filled with laughter and growing friendship, but it is also important to help our new friends get a good base in English. And they are embracing it as their priority too.


Thanks to the teachers, the language partners, and all of you who make this possible.

Supporting New Neighbors on the Move

February 8, 2022

In the last two weeks, we welcomed Nazdana plus Harold and Vicky’s Colombian family and settled them in safe and warm interim housing. Two to three weeks from now, we will move them – and Freshta – to new comfortable and financially-manageable housing that is more conducive to building a life.


We are counting on the power of our Supporting Organizations and their members to help in myriad ways:


With donations of home furnishings:

  • (1) dining room table and 6 chairs
  • (2) flat screen TVs (32″-42″ would be great)
  • Several tall but not too heavy dressers (bedrooms are tight) and tall, not too heavy bookcases

With strong backs and/or pick-up trucks:
Open Arms’ furnishing chair, Laurel Cates, seeks a few strong volunteers and vehicles to transport everything from point A to point B.


With donations for items only money can buy:
Beds, bedding, and linens are required to be new. Monetary donations are matched 2:1 by the Swope Fund.


Moving days are a lot of work but the joy of our newly-nesting neighbors makes it all worthwhile. Thank you for your support.

A Stirring Moment

February 1, 2022

On January 20, Open Arms co-founder Dana Levenberg was sworn in as Assemblywoman for the NYS 95th District by Senator Chuck Schumer. After the swearing in, she pointed out the first person we helped to resettle, Sofia Bator’s cousin Freshta, to Senator Schumer, who had been instrumental in her rescue as US forces withdrew from Afghanistan.


The Senator walked over to greet her, and giving a fist pump added, “we need to help all the Afghans.”


We thank the Senator for his work on behalf of Freshta and other refugees, and we congratulate Dana on her new role in the NYS Assembly.

Help Open Arms Support Welcome Circles for Ukrainians in our area

January 18, 2022

Since the US government established the Uniting for Ukraine program last April, over 100,000 were able to come here under humanitarian parole. The numbers have increased exponentially in recent months. This program allows Ukrainians to live and work in the US for up to two years, where they are eligible to work starting Day One and get benefits.


While Open Arms’ primary focus is resettling refugees as a permanent part of our community, we feel
compelled to help our Ukrainian brethren. We are grateful to HIAS and Westchester Jewish Coalition for Immigration (WJCI) for creating “Welcome Circles,” small community teams which cut through the
bureaucratic red tape and provide support, structure, and starter funds to help these war-weary travelers.


Accordingly, Open Arms is now supporting WJCI in providing $5000 grants to HIAS-certified “Welcome Circles” in the Ossining-Cold Spring area. This will cover initial costs of those generous community teams that are stepping up to welcome and support our new Ukrainian neighbors, as they secure employment, housing and other crucial needs.


If you are interested in starting or joining a Welcome Circle in our area, please reach out to us at

Newcomers in the New Year
How You Can Help

January 11, 2022

As we await the arrival of an Ecuadorian family of six, our sixth resettlement, we have also begun to assist a single Afghan woman. New arrivals have very little, so we are reaching out to
you to help them. Specifically:

  • Housing (2) – Affordable one- and 3–4-bedroom apartments with private entrance. Make some $ while snow birding in Florida and help great people at the same time. Contact us with any leads.
  • Home Furnishings – Furniture and household items for the above. Plus one to four
    Chromebooks/laptops for adults, and a rice cooker.
  • Dollars* – We need money to purchase new beds/bedding, ESL classes and post-trauma counseling; also, to cover rent and food basics in initial months.
  • Jobs – Newcomers are ready and authorized to work! Immediate need is a job for a strong, affable
    Afghan woman, in her early 20’s, with all papers, social security number for work.
  • Professional Services – Refugees often require dental work, mental health counseling and more. If
    you’re a professional willing to donate services, please contact us.
  • Volunteers – Besides the needs enumerated above, there’s a role for anyone wishing to help, with
    satisfaction, gratification, and friendship a dividend. Visit our Volunteer page to learn more.

*Monetary donations are matched 2:1 thanks to a grant from the David Swope Fund.

Partnership with the Jacob Burns Film Center Continues in New Year . . . Next Week!

January 3, 2022

On Wednesday, January 11, at 7 PM, the Jacob Burns Film Center, in partnership with Open Arms, will show the timely documentary “Retrograde” followed by an in-person interview by Janet Maslin with award-winning director Matthew Heineman.


The film, short listed for Best Documentary, captures the human relationships in the final nine months of America’s 20-year war – the Afghan soldiers, US special forces, the civilians desperately seeking to flee. As we work to integrate recent refugees into our communities, it is important background for all Americans to grasp; this is the real world from which our new Afghan neighbors have escaped, yet cannot fully leave behind.


Tickets are $20; $15 for JBFC members. Let us know if you’re planning to come so we can gather at the JBFC-hosted reception after the film. 


To learn more about the event or reserve a seat now, click below.

Open Arms and Jacob Burns Film Center partner to present
Afghanistan Undercover to area high school students

December 13, 2022

Students and teachers from Ossining, Pleasantville, Sleepy Hollow and Byram Hills high schools packed into the main theater at the Jacob Burns Film Center on Tuesday, December 6 to view the powerful, revealing Frontline documentary,  Afghanistan Undercover. The screening, like the one held in November at the Ossining Public Library, was followed by a live Zoom discussion with Frontline correspondent and producer, Ramita Navai.


The students were silent during the film and then asked probing questions about the making of the documentary and conditions in Afghanistan today. They were in awe of the courage of Ramita, the filmmaker, and of Lena, Arifa and the other women in the film. They cheered at the news that Maryam, abducted and found in the women’s prison, had recently escaped Afghanistan to Italy. 


Open Arms is grateful to the Burns for sharing this important film with our communities’ young people, and to Ramita for again agreeing to do a live interview. We are exploring with the Burns offering the film to other high schools in Westchester, and inviting former refugees resettled here by groups like Open Arms to speak in person with the students.


To stream this important documentary online, click below.

Movers, Not Shakers

December 8, 2022

Sunday, December 4 was moving day for volunteers with Congregation Sons of Israel of
Briarcliff (CSI), in anticipation of the arrival of the family from Ukraine.


Kudos to Linda Kingsbury of CSI, ably assisted by Susan Lerner and other volunteers, for
masterfully organizing this flotilla of cars, SUVs, pickups, and one 15ft U-Haul provided (with driver) by Open Arms. Linda had measured each opening and hallway turn and used her high school trig to ensure furniture would fit. She choreographed volunteers of all sizes and strengths as they worked their way up and down the stairs and narrow hall. Others put dishes away and organized rooms to make it feel like home. 


“Many hands make light(er) work,” as Abbe Marcus put it. It was a fun and successful day, also a tribute to the many volunteers and friends of CSI who contributed furnishings and their time to make the new apartment come together for the arriving family.


A hearty welcome to Andrii, Katia and their two kids.

Help us roll out the Welcome Mat

Two new refugee families need furniture, housing

November 30, 2022

The Ukrainian family of four with two little ones is finally arriving in early December. Congregation Sons of Israel of Briarcliff (CSI) has found them safe housing in Ossining, but they are looking for a not-too-large couch, a pair of main bedroom side tables, plus a list of smaller household items. 


To view CSI’s needs for this family and volunteer to help, please click below. 

The Ecuadorian family of six with three teens and a 22-year-old is expected in two to five weeks. They need a three-to-four-bedroom apartment or house, Ossining location strongly preferred. Please explore housing opportunities within your network, including among snowbirds. Our new neighbors have all proven to be excellent and reliable tenants but for added peace of mind, Open Arms guarantees rent payment. 


If you have furniture to offer this larger family, please submit specs and photos using our intake form below.

Thank you for partnering with us in welcoming these two new families.

Afghanistan Underground – In Case You Missed it

November 18, 2022

The Open Arms presentation of “Afghanistan Undercover”on November 17 was powerful – a riveting film, a rare opportunity to hear personally from the filmmaker, and a coming together of the resettlement community in solidarity for refugees.


In the documentary, Frontline correspondent Ramita Navai escorts us inside the protests, the prisons, and the burn units, where we hear directly, often through hidden cameras, from the persecuted women of Afghanistan. Their faces blurred to protect them, Ramita gives voice to their daily pain and suffering – the arrests without charges, the tasering, the beatings. To complete their humiliation, the women feel compelled to mouth appreciation for the Taliban when a guard comes close.


Remarkably, Ramita also films Taliban leaders explaining that the stories she has heard, from women we have seen with our own eyes, cannot be true because they would be contrary to Islam and to Sharia law. One leader demands Ramita adjust her head scarf, in an easy presumption of complete authority over women. It is chilling.


In conversation with Ossining Town Supervisor Dana Levenberg, Ramita made clear that while many Taliban have learned to say the right things, their actions prove otherwise. Ramita  also provided reassuring follow up about the outcomes of the outspoken women featured in the film – how they have escaped as refugees, bringing us full circle on the importance of our work.


To view this bold, revealing and painfully honest documentary, please click below.

Frontline Documentary AFGHANISTAN UNDERCOVER at Ossining Public Library

November 2, 2022


Award-winning journalist, author and filmmaker Ramita Navai has a reputation for investigations in hostile environments. In Afghanistan Undercover, she chronicles the harsh treatment of women, with in-person interviews of women across Afghanistan, all boldly filmed in the last year. She also secretly films inside a jail holding women without charges and confronts Taliban officials. In support of Open Arms and our mission, Ramita is sharing her timely Frontline documentary at no charge. After the film, Ramita will be interviewed via Zoom by Ossining Town Supervisor Dana Levenberg and take questions from the audience.


Please join Ramita, Dana and other Open Arms volunteers and supporters for this insightful and moving documentary and discussion. It is also a chance for those doing the work to meet our many wonderful supporters. Sofia Bator, herself once an Afghan refugee and now Open Arms co-founder, will also be with us. Join us on Thursday, November 17 at 7 PM at the Ossining Public Library for this truly unforgettable event.

Not-to-Be-Missed Concert for a Cause – Sunday, November 6, 3 PM

October 26, 2022

Piano virtuoso Hui-Mei Lin has again assembled a distinguished group of musicians to perform an
outstanding program for the benefit of Open Arms for Refugees. It will be held on Sunday afternoon, November 6 at 3 PM at Pleasantville Presbyterian Church. Donations will be collected as a free will offering and matched 2:1 thanks to the generous David Swope Fund grant.

The program, “Dynamic Duos,” will feature three duets – Peter Seidenberg on cello and Hui-Mei Lin on piano, flutist Elyse Knobloch performing with classical guitarist Peter Press, and vocalist Oshon Temple accompanied by Peter Flemister on piano.


Enjoy a beautiful musical break from the busy fall season and help extend Open Arms to welcome newcomers.

Good vibrations in our community

October 5, 2022


Fans have been flocking to Scarborough Presbyterian Church to see talented recording artist Norm Dodge perform their favorite rock tunes on guitar. On October 23 at 7 PM, friends and followers will have even more to cheer about, since the popular “Sunday Night Norm” event at the Church will benefit two community organizations playing a huge role in peoples’ lives — Open Arms for Refugees and the Emergency Shelter Partnership (ESP). ESP, hosted at alternating houses of worship, provides a hot meal, a warm place to sleep and a hearty breakfast for homeless people in our area during the colder months.


Bring your friends. Enjoy mingling, the music, drinks and snacks as you meet volunteers from both groups. There is no charge to attend but free-will donations are welcome. Monies allocated to Open Arms will be matched 2:1, thanks to a generous grant from the David Swope Fund. 


On November 6 at 3 PM, piano virtuoso Hui-Mei Lin presents an extraordinary concert, also featuring cello, guitar, flute and gospel works, at Pleasantville Presbyterian Church.

Working as a Community Team

September 28, 2022

Volunteers from “supporting organizations” have been an essential part of Open Arms since inception. Another way that a congregation can directly assist refugees is by itself forming the core of a Community Team to work on a specific resettlement.


The Ethical Society of Northern Westchester did just that with the Colombian family resettled this summer. Their members comprise the core and the leadership of the “community team” that has the primary day-to-day relationship with the family – from the initial welcome to Ossining and getting library cards, to weekend activities, birthday parties, after school help, and chicken soup when a family member is sick.


Other Open Arms volunteers worked on housing, health insurance, jobs and funding, and some have also joined that community team. We all work together, and many hands make light work. But it was great to start with a core group that knows each other and shares a “faith in the human capacity to create a better world.” And they are now familia to our new neighbors from Colombia.

Perhaps your congregation would be interested in exploring such work. Please contact us at

Sharing your professional skills

September 21, 2022

These weekly updates often note our need for funds, for home furnishings and for volunteer time to create a warm welcome, a sense of community, and, if we are lucky, lasting friendships.

Your professional skills and services can also help our new neighbors. For example:

  • Legal mentoring: Speak periodically with a young Afghan lawyer about her work in the NY Courts and with US law.
  • Dental work: Provide elective services such as extractions or orthodonture.
  • Engineering: Help an experienced electrical engineer find a job in her field.
  • Human Resources: Do practice interviewing with any job candidate.
  • Finance: Help our new neighbors create a budget or file for tax refunds; assist Open Arms with financial reporting.
  • Hair styling, manicures and other personal grooming. There is nothing like a “new do” to make people look and feel good.

There is so much knowledge and talent in our community. Offer to share yours by emailing us at

Community Teams: The Heart of Community Sponsorship

September 14, 2022

In all four resettlements to date, Open Arms has used the model of a dedicated local Community Team that engages regularly with the family from Day One. This team is supported by specialized Open Arms co-chairs in housing, furnishings, ESL, employment, healthcare, and personal budgeting/finance.


For example, in Cold Spring the Community Team is led by Carol Filmanski of the United Methodist Church and Cathy Duke of Philipstown Reform Synagogue. Their team of local volunteers works closely with the family, orienting them to US customs and culture, and helping them integrate into the Cold Spring community. This team also provides personal support, from babysitting during the parents’ ESL classes and accompanying them to local stores, to being a friend in time of need.


We are now building a fifth Community Team to prepare for our next resettlement. If you (or a group from your congregation) would like to be part of this team working closely with the new family, or wish to assist the specialized co-chairs in their work, please contact us at

Join Open Arms for a Special Event at the Center at Mariandale

September 7, 2022

On Wednesday, September 14 at 7 PM, Sister Norma Pimentel, MJ, Executive Director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, will speak at the Center at Mariandale on the topic Welcoming our Refugee Brothers and Sisters.


Over the past thirty years, Sister Norma has supported more than 100,000 migrants seeking refuge in the US along Texas’ border with Mexico, providing emergency food, shelter, housing assistance, clinical counseling, and pregnancy care. She was personally recognized by Pope Francis and is a recipient of the University of Notre Dame’s prestigious Laertare metal. In 2020 Sister Norma was named by TIME as one of the 100 most influential people in the world!


We are grateful to our friends at the Center at Mariandale for the opportunity to hear this remarkable woman’s compelling and inspiring testimony. For event details and to register, please click below.

The Importance of Gathering

August 30, 2022

On Sunday Sept. 11, from 12-4 PM, Hearts & Homes for Refugees is hosting a picnic in Hartsdale for volunteers, refugees, and supporters to meet each other and to see what Community Sponsorship is truly about, which is the people.


Last year Dana Levenberg of Ossining, Erik Thielking of Croton, Peter Russell of Pleasantville, and Ted Buerger of Briarcliff met each other at the picnic and were in awe of the “newest neighbors” they spoke with there. This in-person connection was the start of Open Arms for Refugees, now with more than 60 active volunteers assisting four households.


If you would like to attend this year’s event and meet some wonderful people, we’ll send you details and add you to the guest list. Just email us at

Life Under the Taliban

August 23, 2022

Three of the four resettlements supported by Open Arms are from Afghanistan. Two media pieces inform us of the world our newest neighbors left behind but still care deeply about:


In “Taliban Rewind the Clock,” the New York Times (8/12/22) chronicles the broad loss of rights. An excerpt: “Girls are barred from secondary schools and women from traveling any significant distance without a male relative. Men in government offices are told to grow beards, wear traditional Afghan clothes and prayer caps, and stop work for prayers. And music is officially banned, and foreign news broadcasts, TV shows and movies have been removed from public airwaves. At checkpoints along the streets, morality police chastise women who are not covered from head to toe in all-concealing burqas and headpieces in public.”


In “Afghanistan Undercover,” (Frontline, 8/9/22, 54 min) Afghan journalist, film maker and author Ramita Navai digs even deeper into the persecution of women across Afghanistan, filming in-person interviews of Afghan women and of Taliban leaders.

Back to School, Revisited

August 15, 2022

There’s always a flurry of excitement around heading back to school, but imagine the emotions of two brothers from Colombia starting school in a new country.


Fortunately, Open Arms’ “Schools Team,” led by Leah Gutstadt and Celi Veras, has done its homework. They worked in June with the district’s Director of Multicultural Learning to get one boy into the middle school Newcomers program, so he’d know the campus, meet some students, and be better prepared for classwork. The older boy has had ESL classes in the high school and with our tutors. Both boys are eager to learn. We also engaged the district’s Family Resource Coordinator, whose job is to connect with the entire family, monitoring how they are doing and any resources needed. And both boys look forward to being in AYSO soccer this fall.


You may be wondering how you can help. Open Arms is raising money to give each boy a $250 gift card, so they can select their own clothing and school supplies. Contributions of $5 or more are welcome.

About the “Settle” in Resettlement

August 3, 2022

As we move forward with our fourth resettlement, we reflect on the process.


In Week 1, we focus on a safe place to live, a full fridge, a warm welcome at the airport and later, the apartment, and a dinner of familiar, native dishes. We assess English proficiency and career skills, schedule health exams, and explore their new hometown.


But the main goal of this first week is to help the family “settle,” not just in the physical sense but emotionally as well. It takes time for their fears and apprehensions to ease; for them to feel safe, secure, and supported by a community that cares for them. This mental shift from “danger central” to “I am safe” to “new hopes and dreams” takes time. But it all starts with that warm welcome, which is the heart of Open Arms.


Thank you for being a part of us.

The Road to Independence

July 27, 2022

To most of us, a car is an essential. It is how we get to work, shop, see friends and family, and get things done. From our teens, it is also a mark of independence. Automobiles are not available to most refugees. This limits housing and work opportunities, not to mention independence, a key goal.


We are pleased to have enabled the transfer of three cars to refugees in the last four months. Each donation originated through supporting organizations of Open Arms. The most recent is from the spouse of an Open Arms volunteer to a working couple with two kids in White Plains. Several community sponsorship programs like ours wanted the vehicle, but they all coalesced in support of this family as most ready and most in need.


If you have a working vehicle you would like to donate, please let us know!

Using Your Connections to Help Masooma

July 19, 2022

Masooma N. is a remarkable 34-year-old electrical engineer, well qualified in building systems and distribution networks, who wants and needs a job. Masooma (pronounced MAH-suma) is working towards her doctorate in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and received “Special Immigrant Visa” (SIV) status for helping the American effort in Afghanistan. She speaks English and is ready to start work right away.


This is Open Arms’ fourth resettlement effort. As such, there is a dedicated local “Community Team” to orient and support her. Financial support will be needed, but Masooma’s resettlement costs are expected to be less than other refugees’. What she needs most are introductions to people and companies who might help her identify job opportunities in the field of electrical engineering and/or AI.


Sharing job networks was an important reason for establishing Supporting Organizations. If you or someone you know can share knowledge and advice on finding jobs in these fields, please let us know!

Reflecting on our first resettlement:
Blessings all around

July 7, 2022

It was only six months ago that we welcomed our first refugee, and it’s a toss-up who was more excited – Freshta or the volunteers, some of whom who had already spent months anticipating her needs. It was an emotional homecoming, with hugs, gifts, and the relief that our young Afghan refugee, who had narrowly escaped death, was finally in our midst.


Despite Freshta’s language challenges, it was clear from the outset that she was determined to work hard and ultimately advance her career goal of advocating for women’s rights through legal channels in America. And now, on her six-month anniversary here, Freshta is taking a big step in the direction of her dreams as she begins a new job in the Westchester County Court system.


As we reflect on our first resettlement, we marvel at how quickly our first refugee has found a new role in our community, enriching us all with her courage, resilience, and sense of hope.

Making Ossining Their Own

June 29, 2022

Last week, our ‘newest neighbors’ moved from the Center at Mariandale into their new home in Ossining, within walking distance to their church. They’ve already met their town supervisor, checked out books from the library, swum at their community center, and ridden bikes along the Aqueduct trail. They’ve also registered for schools, started summer programs and told their ESL tutors to “relax, it will be ok.” They have been offered jobs too, once their Social Security numbers come through. And yes, they’ve also chilled in their apartment, and found time to laugh.


Thanks to everyone for the warm welcome of this new family. It is their new life they are creating, with many challenges to come, but it has been beautiful to be with them on their journey.

Supporting Our Newest Neighbors

June 22, 2022

Last week’s June 16 fundraising event drew a new and lively crowd and, together with the 2:1 match from the David Swope Fund, raised over $7500!  A big thank you to Sing Sing Kill Brewery for hosting and to Hudson Roots for organizing the successful event. 


A small story: The week before, Open Arms threw a surprise 14th birthday party for the youngest Ico, with Feliz Cumpleaños music, modest gifts and a $100 gift card. At the store last week, the birthday boy steered us away from games and sports he loves, to find headphones. He bought two pairs – one for his brother – and then found a hair iron for his mom. That’s the family we are privileged to work with.


So again, thank you to all who have supported this wonderful family, through the Sing Sing Kill Brewery event or just quietly contributing by check or online. For more info, including how to donate funds, furnishings, Spanish skills or time, please click on the links below.

Resettlement x Two

June 16, 2022

Sometimes the world works as it should: The Ico family needs housing. Freshta is moving to a smaller place closer to her new, better-paying legal job in White Plains. And the Center at Mariandale provided interim housing to bridge the timing. Both rentals are below market rates, specifically to help refugees.


This “housing swap” does not lower our costs but it does shift and focus the in-kind donations of furniture that we need. Our evolving list of needs includes: 

  • an indoor privacy screen/room divider
  • a ~3’x7′ cupboard or armoire for storage
  • a Chromebook
  • a grocery cart

You can help us resettle these wonderful newcomers by donating an item in-kind, by volunteering your time (especially if you speak Spanish), or by donating (tripled with the Swope Fund 2:1 match). We invite you to give the way that best fits you.

Our work depends upon the generous donations of our community. If you are interested in supporting our efforts by donating directly, or if you would like to subscribe for periodic updates, please click below. Thank you for your support.

June 7, 2022

With Your Help, Life Begins Anew

The Ico family was warmly welcomed at the airport, at their interim home at Mariandale (with native dish Bandeja Paisa) and on a summery stroll through Ossining, starting with Colombian pastries at the Town Supervisor’s home and ending with private tours of the Community Center and Library. 


Sandra is learning the alphabet in English, her two teen boys have been out on bikes, and we joined them all on the free bus to Croton Summerfest. Volunteer translators and our Chairs helped the family through appliance safety, home checklist, health interview, initial job discussions, school registration forms, ESL plans, and health exam at Open Door.


That’s just the first six days of this resettlement. The family appreciates the volunteers’ work, organization and, yes, friendship. The volunteers love this work. And now it is time for the rest of us to do our part.


Please support the family and take full advantage of the Swope Fund’s 2:1 match by attending our Sing Sing Kill Brewery fundraiser at 7 PM on June 16 or by donating online now.

June 1, 2022

Open Arms Welcomes New Family

We are thrilled to announce the arrival of a beautiful family of three who escaped persecution in Colombia and are fortunate to land in our caring community. Our volunteers are working to get the mom and her two teenage sons settled as soon as possible, but that comes at a financial cost.
Just to start with: New housing requires a security deposit and two months’ rent up front. Beds and bedding must be purchased new. Food and living expenses have to be covered while Mom is interviewing and waiting for her job to start. There is a cost for ESL classes, and not all clothing can be bought at thrift shops. The list goes on, as does the need. Thank you for your continued support.

May 23, 2022

Festivity On Tap:
Thursday, June 16, 7 – 10 PM

Sing Sing Kill Brewery

Join us for an evening of fun and fundraising! Hosted in partnership with Hudson Roots and Sing Sing Kill Brewery, this community social is geared to acquaint our neighbors with the important work Open Arms is doing to welcome and resettle refugees in the greater Westchester area.
Tickets are $105/person and include two drinks, light fare, and a $70 donation* to Open Arms. They can be purchased in advance (click below) or at the door with cash or via Venmo. Please come and bring your friends!
*Thanks to a generous 2-to-1 matching grant from the Swope Fund, your gift triples in value from $70 to $210!

May 18, 2022


Extending “Open Arms” to More Refugees

Two big announcements: First, in recognition that our scope and support now extend far beyond Ossining, Ossining for Refugees is changing its name to Open Arms for Refugees


Second, the David Swope Fund has awarded “Open Arms” a $250,000 grant. The grant is  payable as a 2-to-1 match on the next $100,000 raised for future refugees. It also includes a $50,000 endowment to cover future special needs. Ultimately this grant is expected to make possible the resettlement of ten refugee families. And we know, sadly, that many refugees will be coming.


David Swope was a beloved and astute local philanthropist whose grants improved people’s lives. We are honored to be part of his legacy. And we thank all the volunteers and Supporting Organizations who have made us worthy of this timely and inspiring donation.

May 11, 2022


A Temporary Lull in Resettlements

Last week, we anticipated a Guatemalan refugee family arriving here, as our third resettlement in four months. But, like the Afghan and Ukranian families we worked with in April, this family was ultimately offered a way to keep their kids in their schools and stay where they were.  There is much generosity in this country.
Why, you may ask, are we working on moving families already here instead of on new arrivals? First, because we were asked, and the need was urgent and real. And second, because April and May have seen a lull in resettlement, after the heavy push to move Afghans out of the military camps.
Sadly, the lull in resettlements will not last. Next week we will share important news on how – with your continued support – we think we will be able to respond. 

May 4, 2022


At the end of the day, refugees find their way

Through these posts, we have tried to convey the ups and downs of resettling refugees. These beautiful people leave an indelible impression on our hearts. It is a privilege to be allowed into their lives at such a vulnerable time, and a pleasure to explore every possible contingency to assure their wellbeing. As you play such a vital role in this work, here is an update of where our newest families have landed.

  • We are happy to report that the Ukrainian family found just what they needed in New Jersey, where the community is supporting them as we would.
  • After careful consideration, the Afghan family of five, who fell in love with Ossining on Earth Day and vice versa, has decided to stay in New Jersey where their children can finish up the school year, the wife can continue vital physical therapy, and the rents and wages are more favorable in the long run.

Latest news: we are in discussions with Catholic Charities and a Guatemalan family. It could be a wonderful fit for all. Stay tuned….

Apr 26, 2022


Supporting temporary stays in the U.S. for Ukrainian Refugees

Did you know… the Biden administration has established Uniting for Ukraine, which allows Americans to sponsor Ukrainians under a system known as humanitarian parole. Those willing and able to provide financial support for the Ukrainians for up to 18 months must be vetted before they can be accepted.


Ossining for Refugees has a small group exploring the program on behalf of all of us, and we have taken initial steps to make this a reality. We have submitted preliminary paperwork and will be getting names of Ukrainians needing to be sponsored. Applications must be made by individuals, but individuals can receive support from houses of worship or other groups.
If you (or your house of worship) wish to be part of this program, kindly notify us at

Apr 20, 2022


At the Heart of What We Do

Two weeks ago, O4R offered safe emergency housing for a world-weary Ukrainian family. Happily, that family has found a warm outpouring of support in NJ. But we were ready.


In the last 24 hours, we have been asked to resettle an Afghan family of five, beginning May 1. Such short notice is not unusual and so we immediately went to work looking for affordable housing, alerting the schools, lining up volunteers, and exploring jobs for the dad. We do all this not knowing if the family will choose to move here, where they have no family or other connections.


This is what O4R was created to do, and we embrace the work and the uncertainty. It reflects that we as a community are offering this family a choice, standing with them while they make the important decisions in their lives. Your generosity and flexibility
support us in this mission, and we thank you.

Apr 12, 2022


An Early Arrival from Ukraine

Last week, we were alerted by WJCI and a rabbi in NJ of the urgent need for housing for a Ukrainian family of nine, with days left on space in a hostel in NYC. We checked with key Supporting Organizations and within 48 hours O4R was able to offer two months of interim housing, with support for food, transportation, and ESL as needed. We also noted reasons that this family might be best resettled in NJ. The Rabbi has now offered them his own home through Passover.


“They also serve who stand and wait.” So a big thank you to the Center at Mariandale, to WJCI, and to our volunteers for standing ready. It was a great relief to the family and the Rabbi to know that there was and is a safe option here in Westchester, while they try to find what is best for this family.


Thank all of you for standing with us.

Apr 5, 2022


Helping Ukrainian Refugees

Our hearts go out to the people of Ukraine, and we are ready to serve those fleeing their beloved homeland and seeking refuge here. O4R volunteers are prepared to address their immediate physical needs – food, shelter, medical care – and are sensitive to the deep emotional wounds they will continue to suffer. In this season of religious holidays, including Passover, Easter, and Ramadan, we pray for peace and look forward to providing stability, comfort and hope to Ukrainian refugees. Thank you, as always, for your support. We will keep you posted.

Mar 29, 2022


Thrift Shops to the Rescue!

Thrift shops of O4R Supporting Organizations have been a key part of how refugees (and all of us) can live better on a budget. Just last weekend, Baseer and family discovered a lovely table and chairs and other things they liked at St. John’s Thrift Shop in Pleasantville. The IFCA Thrift Shop, reopening April 5 in a larger space across from Four Seasons in Ossining, has also made its clothing available to refugees resettling here, and will continue to do so with even more to offer. As our new neighbors go forward, these shops give them the power to make their own choices and pay their own way, at prices they can afford. You can help these shops help others by shopping there for yourself, which also benefits the environment by recycling gently used items.

Mar 23, 2022

On Sunday, March 20, Afghans from across Westchester came together to celebrate Nowruz (literally “new day”), which marks the arrival of spring and a new year. Attendees (including some lucky O4R volunteers) enjoyed traditional foods, from Qabili Palau, a delicious chicken dish with carrots, to the dried fruit and nut holiday specialty, Haft Mewa (“seven fruits”). There were kids on tricycles, Afghan music, lively conversation, and much dancing.


Organized in part by O4R volunteer Qudsia Haseq, the event was also a wonderful opportunity for Afghans to meet each other, and for us to find out how more experienced refugees had dealt with driving tests, DSS, and other challenges. A fun cultural event and an education all around! It felt great to be welcomed as friends of the Afghan community, and to share this joyful evening.

Mar 15, 2022

The Center at Mariandale is a retreat of simple beauty and peace. Its meandering pathways, contemplative maze and views of the Hudson River are themselves restorative and healing. Led by Dr. Carl Procario-Foley, the Center and its staff are instinctively welcoming and generous. 


Four weeks ago, as Baseer’s family bounced from one AirBNB to another, Carl offered part of their main building as a refuge for the family – for up to seven weeks, at no cost. The staff had a welcome party, hosted quilters giving a gift to Freshta, and gave Baseer and Nabila space to settle in while negotiations and arrangements proceed (successfully) at the camp.


A big thank you to the Center for this generous and timely gift, truly “welcoming the stranger.” We are proud to have them as a Supporting Organization of O4R.

Mar 8, 2022

THANK YOU to pianist Hui-Mei (“Fimi”) Lin and cellist Peter Seidenberg for their brilliant and moving Beethoven concert Saturday, March 5, at Briarcliff Congregational Church (BCC). The “free will” offering for Ossining for Refugees raised $3,200, with subsequent donations still being received by mail. In her thanks to the audience, Fimi, who is Music Director at BCC, shared her personal immigrant story. Coming from Taiwan alone to study music, the 15-year-old Fimi was given shelter, food, and friendship by a kindly young woman who remains her close friend today. This generosity has made all the difference in her life.


Successful resettlement requires money! Thank you, Peter and Fimi, for bringing joy to all in attendance while also supporting this important initiative to assist “our newest neighbors.” Bravo! 

Mar 1, 2022

Wow! In the last two weeks our network of Supporting Organizations came through with a double stroller, a tea kettle, a pressure cooker (as a surprise birthday gift) AND free housing through March 15, when Baseer’s family can move to the summer camp. 

In addition to covering the family’s food, ESL classes and basic necessities since their arrival, your donations are also making the summer camp job possible by paying for his on-the-job training, while O4R volunteers will help him get a NY driver’s license and meet other camp requirements. Here one month, Baseer is seizing the opportunity for a new life. See what we can do together! 
Thanks to all for being part of the O4R Support Network.

Feb 16, 2022

A big THANK YOU to our Supporting Organizations and their members.  Your donations, connections, and leads have lined up furnishings, starting food supplies, and warm clothing for all, plus many job options for F and Baseer. (F is accepting two, Baseer still exploring.)  Open Door, Neighbors Link and Career Closet have also provided key services on short notice. Connecting our four communities has magnified our impact.

Jan 25, 2022

We are pleased to report that our first refugee, F, is here, happy and thriving! She thanks everyone for welcoming her so warmly.

Open Arms for Refugees is a Community Sponsorship organization, bringing together neighbors, houses of worship, community organizations and key service providers in Ossining, Cold Spring and surrounding towns, with the shared mission of welcoming and integrating federally-sponsored refugees into our communities.