Cincinnati is home to 34,000 refugees who have resettled in the United States since 2008. That number keeps growing, as each week 20+ secondary migrants (relocating refugees) move here from other cities. Heartfelt Tidbits is a 100% volunteer-based organization that provides support and services refugees need during and beyond the initial days of resettlement, in order to become truly settled in our city. Heartfelt Tidbits is a grass-roots organization that helps the refugee community organize around and overcome the many issues they face.
Volunteer efforts began in 2008 when the first Bhutanese refugee family arrived. In one year, 156 people arrived and in year two, over 250 people arrived. Initial efforts focused on day-to-day living skills, school, and medical needs. Volunteers were pulled together from neighborhoods and local churches to provide basic needs. In 2009, programs were created for new arrivals learning English. In 2010, Heartfelt Tidbits was formed as a 501(c)3 to allow for tax-deductible donations and so that it could act as a job center for refugees who need to further their language and learn a skill.
Our primary effort focuses on connecting our newest neighbors to what’s outside of their home or in their neighborhood. To understand this, write down all of the activities and places you have have been this week. For someone new to the USA, that may or may not have had exposure to grocers, laundry, car repair, schools, etc., this task of figuring out where to go for what is overwhelming.
Heartfelt Tidbits seeks to take the exhaustion or feeling of frustration out of this. A key component of what is done is engaging volunteers to assist families with this. Many volunteers are involved with a single family. One volunteer may be responsible for introducing a family to the closest market to shop, another may visit the local library and community center, someone may accompany them to the laundromat the first few times, introduce them to their neighbors, assist them with school registrations, etc. It’s a never-ending list of “to do’s” and introductions based on the families need. For larger families, a volunteer coordinator is assigned to help with communication between the various people and organizations that may be involved.
Heartfelt Tidbits is made possible in part by our community partners. We would like to thank them for their invaluable support of refugees, and we encourage you to visit their websites!
- Community Learning Center Institute
- Gorman Heritage Farm
- Turner Farm
- Our Harvest
- Tikkun Farm
- Wave Pool Gallery
- Ohio State University Extension
- Franciscan Ministries
- Love Worn
- Refugee Connect
- Wordplay Cincinnati
- Rockdale Temple
Sheryl Rajbhandari, Executive Director
Sheryl has had a passion for learning about people from other countries since she was a child. In her 20’s this curiosity led her to meet her husband, Amsu. In 2008 after meeting the first refugee family from Bhutan she knew she had to have a role in helping them resettle in a welcoming community. Eventually, this work led her to leave her enterprise architect career to focus on supporting local refugees and immigrants. Sheryl currently acts as the executive director for all programs.
Giri Sapkota, Board Member
It was August 2008 my family and I stepped down the plane at CVG with our luggage.That moment was exciting; at the same time, we were nervous that we were relocation in the new country. As we were on our way to the new home, we had the chance to have a glance at the new environment and the developed city was in front of our eyes. New country, new Place with a new hope was started back then…
Upon arriving at our new home, after some days I had a chance to meet with a volunteer, Sheryl. She stepped up to help me and many other refugee families in the city of Cincinnati to adapt to a changing and challenging environment. I was inspired by the work Sheryl did for my family and others and I realized that I needed to join helping hands with her and guide one another to have comfort in the new home. After I realized this, I started to work with Sheryl as a Volunteer helping upcoming refugees.
As we kept on proceeding, Sheryl had a mastermind to start the basic English and citizenship class for the Bhutanese Senior people. I lend her a helping hand for that because all I have been through and I have realized how hard it is to cope in the new place, whereas I thought of our senior people and how they were going to get citizenship in this country. So I volunteer as a part of Heartfelt Tidbits, which is a non-profit organization formed in Cincinnati. As a volunteer, my part is to pick up and drop off the senior people to and from the class every week. On the other hand, I also translate/interpret and conduct the senior citizen class every week.
After all, I enjoy every moment as I volunteer, which means that it makes me feel like I make an impact on someone else’s life; plus together we can make a big difference. I volunteer because I find something satisfying from the heart as I am able to say I changed something in the lives of others, and it gives meaning to my being here beyond simply looking after myself.
Shiva Chamlagai – Board Member
Amsu Rajbhandari – Advisor
In 1998, Amsu Rajbhandari left Nepal to start a new life in the US. After he graduated from the University of Cincinnati, he joined Procter & Gamble, where currently works as a senior scientist.In early years of life in the US, along with “regular” struggles of starting a life in a new country, Amsu had difficulty understanding American cultural expectations that are vital to true assimilation. Only after he met his wife Sheryl, he truly understood what it means to be an American. When the Bhutani refugees started to arrive in 2008, he knew he had to pass knowledge and experience to the newest “Americans” so that they did not have to struggle more than necessary. He believes in teaching people how to get things done in US, rather than doing it for them. Today, he helps out with Heartfelt Tidbits, as needed.
Shirley Richards, Citizenship Program Director
After retiring from a successful career at P&G I fell quickly into supporting the volunteer efforts of my daughter Sheryl and her work with the Bhutanese refugees. I am currently responsible for all aspects of citizenship training which includes creating and modifying curriculum, teaching, assessing citizenship readiness and assisting other volunteers. It is so rewarding to watch our refugee families grow and become good citizens and to be welcomed into their families also. The smiles and hugs are all the payment I need.
If you are interested in finding out more about or volunteer with Heartfelt Tidbits, please download and fill out this Volunteer Form and return to us.