Three Rivers Champion: Sloane Davidson
Davidson started an organization that gives refugee and immigrant families aid based on real, person-to-person relationships, not transactions.
When Sloane Davidson invited a Syrian refugee family to Thanksgiving dinner with her family in 2016, she didn’t realize that she was laying the groundwork for an organization. But when the dinner was over she knew that there was a need for refugees to receive support beyond the first 90 days traditionally given by resettlement agencies.
“I knew it would be more impactful to have a real relationship, versus something transactional, and so set out to create a mentorship program matching local families with refugee families,” Davidson says. So she created Hello Neighbor — an organization that helps immigrant and recently resettled refugee families by matching them with dedicated neighbors to guide and support them in their new lives.
She says nobody knows better than Pittsburghers about helping and supporting neighbors.
“We have a culture where when new families moved to town, the local church, union or club came by with a casserole and helped families adjust. Neighborhoods were so tightly knit that everyone knew when a new family moved to town,” she says. “We’ve gotten away from that and I’d like to think Hello Neighbor is a throwback to those values of respecting and valuing our neighbors and what they bring to the community by way of diversity and experiences.”
Davidson has been volunteering for as long as she can remember.
“My first clear memory is starting a recycling program in the 4th grade,” she says, adding that volunteering doesn’t mean just donating your time — it also involves giving financially, donating your expertise and more.
“If your time is really limited, feel great about writing checks,” she says. “It’s about what works for you and if you do that, you will be happier and you will be giving back in a way that is meaningful to you and the organizations you support.”
In the two years since its creation, Hello Neighbor has created 50 family matches, run two cohorts of families through the program, held more than 20 community-wide events and received local and national media attention.
“It’s been incredible to showcase the kindness of neighbors, and in particular the kindness of Pittsburghers, to help our newest neighbors feel more happy, comfortable and confident in their new homes,” she says.
Davidson hopes to expand Hello Neighbor, but says Pittsburgh will always be the main priority and focus.
“I like to think Hello Neighbor is a reminder of the kind of neighbors we can, and should be,” she says. “If we’re successful, we won’t need to exist and we can move onto to helping and supporting others in different ways.”