2020 was a year filled with many unexpected challenges. The way we delivered services during the COVID-19 health crisis looked different, but our dedication to our families remained the same. This pandemic has proven that we are committed to ensuring the needs of our refugee families are met, no matter what challenges we are being faced with in our city or country. And in the midst of tragedies, we found hope and strength in knowing that you all stood by our side and ensured your commitment to welcoming our neighbors.
Here are our favorite moments in 2020:
1. We welcomed 175 courageous newcomers from seven different countries, including a family of six from Sudan and a husband from Syria who was reunited with his wife after being separated for 4 years. You can watch the airport reunion here.
2. We welcomed two new board members to the team – Michael Leppert and Dr. Quratulain Khan.
3. Our Services for Asylum Seekers program was launched, and we expanded our Legal Services Program. Like a refugee, an asylum seeker is an individual with a well-founded fear of being persecuted, but they are either physically present in the U.S. or are at a land border or port of entry of the U.S. at the time they seek refuge. It can take several years for an individual’s asylum case to be approved. With a new program and the expansion of our Legal Services Program, we welcomed two new staff members – Dian Krueger, Case Coordinator for asylum seekers and Jennifer McKinney, Immigration Staff Attorney.
4. We had our first ever Gala @ Home in August, and thanks to our sponsors, donors and supporters, it was a huge success. We raised $145,000 for services for refugees and other forcibly displaced populations in Indianapolis. We were also lucky to have had our annual Gala emcees John Green, New York Times bestselling author and Chris Waters, Founder and CEO of LUNA Language Services as the hosts for the night. Suihlei also shared her powerful refugee story. You can watch it here.
5. We celebrated our Director of Operations, Megan Hochbein and Yaza Swe, Manager of Employment Programs for their 10 years of service at Exodus.
6. We provided $539,000 of direct assistance to our families. This included financial support for rent, utilities, food, etc.
7. 216 clients attended educational trainings like cultural orientation, employment readiness trainings and financial literacy trainings.
8. The Youth Program matched 23 teens with volunteer youth mentor and 26 kids participated in our summer activities on Zoom. In July, we provided over 230 students with new backpacks, school supplies, and school uniforms – thanks to our volunteers.
9. In mid-March, we quickly pivoted our adult English classes to virtual classes. We saw month over month that our attendance continued to climb. This has showed us how online classes have provided the opportunity for clients to attend classes more frequently because it removed barriers to education like transportation and childcare. You can read more about volunteer Jenny Tomlinson’s experience here.
10. And last but not least, our favorite moment was YOU – the volunteer, donors, partners and advocates who make the welcome possible. Thank you!