By Kevin Heffernan

Ignorance and fear be damned.

In the face of negative and false statements repeatedly made on national stages about refugees and immigrants, Buffalo showed its true colors last month. We are not a perfect people or region, but when we answered the call to support an influx of Congolese refugees at Vive, part of Jericho Road Community Health Center in Buffalo, we were our best selves. Able to see through tired old fear mongering campaigns, Buffalo’s people and businesses donated time and money and care immediately upon being asked.

We were fortunate enough to have the chance to serve Vive’s overflow crowds that Canisius College took into their dorms. Going around the table and hearing from the men on campus about their prior careers in logistics, social work, teaching, technology, trucking, and more, we were reminded of the skills and beautiful personalities these people are bringing to Buffalo. It’s not just about helping fellow humans and new neighbors in need, it’s about realizing that our city and region need people like these desperately.

The story you’ll see below from JRCHC is incredible. These men and women and children escaped extreme violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo to Africa’s west coast. They made their way to Brazil, then used buses and walked all the way to the US southern border. There’s a growing Congolese population in Buffalo and when released from immigration detention, they were able to name one place to be sent immediately – Vive. Read more below, and below that, see yet another way you can help Jericho Road assist our newest neighbors:

Jericho Road receives over $250,000 in donations following influx of asylum seekers at Vive

Since receiving 100 asylum seekers from the Democratic Republic of Congo in mid-June, Jericho Road has seen a generous outpouring of support from the local community

BUFFALO, NY (July 8, 2019) – In less than a month, Jericho Road has received over $250,000 in monetary contributions in support of its Vive shelter for asylum seekers. This outpouring of generosity has come primarily from individuals, businesses, and local foundations in Western New York.

Over the course of 10 days in mid-June, nearly 100 Congolese men, women, and children arrived at Vive on Buffalo’s East Side by way of the southern U.S. border. These families are part of a larger movement of people fleeing the Democratic Republic of Congo to escape extreme violence and political unrest. For the most part, the recently arrived asylees reached Buffalo after making a long journey from Brazil by bus and on foot to the southern U.S. border.

Most of the new arrivals hope to be granted asylum in the U.S. and remain in Buffalo, where there is a small but growing community of Congolese refugees. Shortly after arrival, Jericho Road’s medical team screens all clients and provides medical services when appropriate.

The arrival of these Congolese families was unexpected for Vive, which primarily serves as a temporary shelter for asylum seekers who intend to move on to Canada. That process typically takes two or three days, but because the vast majority of these Congolese asylees hope to resettle in the U.S., their processing could take up to two years.

Because Vive is not equipped to handle the needs of a significant number of long-term residents, Jericho Road put out a public call for assistance to the local community around June 13. Since then, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Not only have financial contributions poured in, more than 780 items have been purchased off the shelter’s Amazon shopping list. The International Institute of Buffalo also posted a separate Amazon list on behalf of Vive. All the items were purchased within a week.

“We have been very blessed by our Western New York community and by donors across the country,” says Anna Ireland Mongo, Jericho Road’s chief program officer and director of Vive. “We are so grateful to be the recipients of this generosity and to know that our city supports these people who are just trying to forge a better, safer life for themselves and their children. It has been encouraging to read all the notes of love and caring that have come in with these gifts, like the woman who sent a check for $10 and said she doesn’t have a lot to share but she felt like she needed to do something after hearing the story on the news.”

The John R. Oishei Foundation has been leading the charge among local foundations to support Vive with emergency funding. (The John R. Oishei Foundation enhances the economic vitality and quality of life for the Buffalo Niagara region through grantmaking, leadership, and network building. The Foundation was established in 1940 by John R. Oishei, founder of Trico Products Corporation.)

To date, several other local foundations have made financial contributions to Vive to help address the emergent needs and increased operational toll that Jericho Road now faces. The list of contributors includes The Western New York Foundation, KeyBank/First Niagara Foundation, M&T Bank, the Rich Family Foundation, and Health Foundation for Western and Central New York. Other commitments are still pending.

“As the City of Good Neighbors, Buffalo has always been a welcoming place for immigrants who have made our city a more interesting and culturally diverse place,” says Lawrence Cook, Vice President of The John R. Oishei Foundation. “With the unexpected arrival of these families from the Congo, we felt compelled to support the incredible efforts of Jericho Road and Vive to welcome and care for these new arrivals in a humane and dignified way. We are delighted that so many of our foundation peers, the private sector, and individuals have given so quickly and so generously.”

About Jericho Road

Jericho Road Community Health Center provides holistic healthcare for refugee and low-income community members in Buffalo, facilitating wellness and self-sufficiency by addressing health, education, and economic barriers. Their vision is for Buffalo to become a city with abundant opportunity for the underserved and marginalized to be healthy, educated, and whole. Vive was founded in 1984 by members of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious of the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, NY. In 2015, Vive was acquired by Jericho Road and is now one of Jericho Road’s six community programs.