Learn how a local couple is helping refugees and immigrants find their place in the community, to not only acclimate but thrive in their new world.
Cincy Chic: What is Heartfelt Tidbits?
Sheryl Rajbhandari, Executive Director of Heartfelt Tidbits: Heartfelt Tidbits began in 2008. It is a grassroots organization that provides a long welcome to local refugees and immigrants.
Cincy Chic: Who’s behind it?
Rajbhandari: Myself and my husband Amsu were introduced to our first refugee family from Bhutan in May 2008. After meeting the Tamang family we clearly understood that people need so much more than 90 days to acclimate to their new residence and with a community and love surrounding them, anything is possible. I have served as the volunteer Executive Director of Heartfelt Tidbits ever since.
Cincy Chic: When did you launch?
Rajbhandari: We began supporting persons in 2008 and became an official 501c3 in 2016.
Cincy Chic: Why is your work important to the community?
Rajbhandari: My prior corporate background used data to help corporations do short and long term strategic planning. I approached my work with refugees in the same capacity and quickly understood that most refugees were spending long periods of time in public housing and feeling hopeless. The groups that had community support and a team of champions cheering them on were showing tremendous success and acclimating to their new environment. I decided at that point that each person I met would have this support around them and be integrated with their community. This approach changed the dynamics of neighborhoods. As people were introduced, I took it upon myself to introduce neighbors, churches, and businesses on who was moving in, where they were from, and educate them on refugees. Quickly neighbors, local libraries, business owners, and others relayed the story of the refugee to their own or their ancestors, and were more than happy to assist. There was a hunger to learn more about their newest neighbors and understand their culture. This created a ripple effect. Local Presbyterian church pews were suddenly filled with Buddhists and Hindu’s eager to sit in a spiritual place each week. The local produce store started carrying watercress and buckwheat to meet the demands. Franciscan Sisters opened up land to allow their neighbors to grow familiar food in a community garden. Hesitant employers began begging for more of the new neighbors to join their company and found ways to allow Heartfelt Tidbits to offer ESL and life skill training between shifts.
Cincy Chic: Can you tell us more about your 2020 block party?
Rajbhandari: Our International Block Party is May 2, 2020 at 6:30 pm at the Wyoming Civic Center. Sponsorship opportunities opened up Jan. 6th and tickets will be available after Jan. 20th at https://www.heartfelttidbits.
Cincy Chic: What makes Heartfelt Tidbits unique?
Rajbhandari: Heartfelt Tidbits is the only local organization that supports everyone at anypoint in their journey. We recognize that needs change as time goes on. In 2019, we became an inaugural member of the Hello Neighbor Network with 7 other similar organizations across the nation.
Cincy Chic: Is there anything new on the horizon?
Rajbhandari: In 2019 we added our first staff. One of our asylum seekers, Lourdes Santos Martinez, became our first full-time employee and in the fall we added a part-time ESL lead, Judy Geringer. We also launched Welcome Alliance to coordinate transportation to/from medical and legal appointments. This has been so popular, the volunteer lead, Jennifer Watson, became another part-time employee the first of January 2020. We would love to add a mental health specialist and another full-time person if finances allow it. We’re also working with UC DAAP interns on developing a new and innovative way of communicating with our donors, clients and volunteers.
Cincy Chic: Where can readers go to learn more and follow along?
Rajbhandari: Visit our website at www.heartfelttidbits.com to learn more and sign up for our newsletter to be part of future communications.