Mayor’s Office Allocates $600K To Immigrant Peer Navigator Program

March 4, 2024

Today, Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA) Commissioner Manuel Castro announced a $600,000 grant from The Rockefeller Foundation.

Other donors to the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City with funds earmarked for the ‘Immigrant Peer Navigator Program’, an asylum seeker relief project. 

“Social networks and community connections are how we all make life happen and that is especially so for those newly arrived in the United States. This innovative model will help build support systems on which individuals and families can draw as they work to find their footing in the city,” said Anne Williams-Isom, Deputy Mayor of Health and Human Services. “Thank you to our philanthropic partners and to all those involved that have and will make this program possible.” 

“We are thrilled to launch the Immigrant Peer Navigator Program, an innovative approach to meet the needs of arriving asylum seekers and continue to foster connections within New York City’s immigrant community,” said Manuel Castro, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. “Our long-standing partnerships with community organizations have been critical to deliver essential services to immigrants across the city, and we’re excited to tap into these networks to build community connections and support between longtime immigrants and newly arrived asylum seekers.” 

“Immigrant-serving, community-based organizations have shown extraordinary leadership and been invaluable lifelines throughout communities as the city has welcomed over 170,000 newly arrived migrants since spring 2022.  The Immigrant Peer Navigator Program is a community-grown model that taps into the beauty and power of interpersonal connections.” said Najma Ali Chermin, Interim Executive Director of the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City. “We thank The Rockefeller Foundation and Airbnb for their contributions to the Immigrant Navigator Program, a one-of-a-kind, public-private partnership that recognizes the wisdom possessed by our immigrant communities and creates pathways of support for newly arrived migrants as they establish their lives in New York City.”  

The Immigrant Peer Navigator program is a first of its kind 6-session New York City orientation that will connect 250 long time immigrant New Yorkers to 250 recently arrived asylum seekers. Long time immigrant New Yorkers with similar immigration experiences will serve as mentors to newly arrived asylum seekers to give them tips on surviving and navigating life in New York City, including finding work, housing, and providing community connections.

The Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City and the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs began working with 9 immigrant serving community-based organizations to identify and select the participants of the programs based on preset requirements and match them with mentors. Each participant will receive a $599 stipend and a MetroCard over the course of the program. The organizations selected represent a diverse group with an extensive reach to immigrant New Yorkers across the five boroughs. Each organization provides cultural and linguistic services to immigrant New Yorkers. The following organizations are participating in the program:

  • African Communities Together
  • African Services Committee
  • Aid for Life
  • Catholic Charities
  • Fundavenyc
  • La Colmena
  • Mexican Coalition
  • Mixteca
  • New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE)

The requirements for a mentor include being a community member, a member, current or former client of the organization. The mentor will also need to be an immigrant to New York City who understands the challenges newly arrived asylum seekers face, and who is willing to share personal experiences as an immigrant having to survive in New York City. Additionally, the mentor will need to communicate in the same language as the assigned asylum seeker. The requirement for the mentee is to be a recently arrived asylum seeker who resides in New York City, including at a NYC based shelter. Each participant must participate in the program from start to finish to receive the stipend.

“Navigating a new place can be a challenge for anyone; for recently arrived asylum seekers in our bustling city it can be especially difficult as many must learn new systems, customs, and oftentimes a new language. Thanks to the Immigrant Peer Navigator Program, African Communities Together has been able to connect over two dozen newly arrived African asylum seekers with established community mentors who have made homes, families, and careers in New York City,” said Amaha Kassa, Executive Director of African Communities Together.

“We are grateful to be part of MOIA’s Immigrant Peer Navigator Program. We are dedicated to empowering newly arrived asylum seekers, pioneering innovative pathways toward integration. Through collaborative initiatives such as this, we are shaping a brighter, more inclusive future both for the City of New York and its diverse newcomers,” said Jesus Aguais, President of Aid for Life International.

“The wealth of expertise and diverse perspectives within our established immigrant community in NYC is a valuable asset for newcomers seeking guidance and support,” said Amanda Lugg, Executive Director of African Services Committee. “We are excited to acknowledge and bolster the welcoming spirit that immigrant New Yorkers extend to their newest community members, and we are dedicated to creating more connections and opportunities for service, which MOIA’s Immigrant Peer Navigator Program provides. Several of our longstanding members are eager to contribute, and we look forward to inviting them to participate as mentors.”

“Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York is proud to be part of this impactful new program, which will connect newly arrived immigrants with immigrant New Yorkers who have been able to find housing and make a living for themselves and their families. Through our Day Laborer Program and other facets of our Immigration-related work, we have seen first-hand how this has become a major challenge for those that are new to our city,” said Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, Executive Director of the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York. “Guidance and mentorship are among the most valuable sources of support for new arrivals. Now, thanks to Mayor Adams Administration, the Immigrant Peer Navigator Program will support the formation of these connections and help to welcome and integrate new arrivals into the fabric of our city.”

“The Immigrant Peer Navigator Program has been the most effective collaboration between CBOs and the city of New York that we have seen since the humanitarian crisis began in our asylum-seeker community,” said Miroslava Yepez, Program Director for FundaVeNY. “It is a program that aligns with our mission to accelerate the transition of immigrants, enabling them to quickly reach self-sufficiency and embark on the path to becoming prosperous residents of NYC. This program should be replicable and scalable to address the significant challenges our community and city are facing.”

“La Colmena’s mission is to empower the immigrant worker through education, culture, organizing and economic development. Through the Immigrant Peer Navigator Program, new arrivals will connect with members of La Colmena to help them navigate Staten Island and welcome them into the community” says Yesenia Mata, Executive Director of La Colmena. “There is so much that we can learn from each other to ensure that we can continue pushing for immigrant rights and building a welcoming Staten Island.” 

“Implementing a mentorship program in NYC for newly arrived immigrants is crucial. Pairing newcomers with experienced mentors fosters belonging, expedites integration, and empowers immigrants to overcome hurdles. It’s wonderful to see how supportive the community in NYC is, where long-standing members have been actively helping newly arrived immigrants navigate their new lives. The collaboration not only assists newcomers in adapting to the city but also fosters beautiful friendships that extend beyond the program. Such initiatives contribute to building a more inclusive and interconnected community, showcasing the positive impact of collective support, and understanding,” said Lorena Kourousias, Executive Director of Mixteca.

“NYC has always been at the front of innovation and meeting head-on challenges that require putting humanity first. The Asylum-seeking community is another example of how NYC and MOIA, brings together local agencies to create a network of collaborators to humanely support vulnerable and scare children and families as they seek to become part of the fabric of NYC,” said Jairo Guzman, Founder and President of Mexican Coalition. “MOIA sought to encourage and support the human relationships every person needs to succeed in NYC, and we at the Mexican Coalition are proud to stand by MOIA and be part of the Immigrant Peer Navigator Program. 50 new and not-so new immigrants will be better because of such program.”

“NICE is thrilled to be part of the Immigrant Peer Navigator Program family. Everyday NICE promotes unity and connection between newly arrived immigrants from the past and the present. In our daily interactions, community gatherings and activities, we witness how our community members welcome newly arrived immigrants and show their solidarity, leadership, and kindness when they share useful and empowering information on their experience, challenges, and opportunities as New Yorkers and guide them through the road,” said Nilbia Coyote, Executive Director of NICE. “Thanks to the Immigrant Peer Navigator Program we will weave more harmony inside our immigrant community and promote dialogues of solidarity. We thank MOIA for creating a project that recognizes the power of mentors/mentees and how the journeys of our traditional community can spur the integration of new immigrants as we build together a stronger community!”

Photo credit: HWM.

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