The Westfield Fun Club has grown from its humble beginning as a group organized to help a couple newly resettled Syrian refugee families, to a network of some 75 volunteers assisting dozens of refugee families in Westfield, New Jersey. And like so many small organizations across the country, the Fun Club is doing everything it can to help neighbors in need during the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.
“We are currently running twice weekly emergency food runs,” shares Jenny Tananbaum, co-founder of the Westfield Fun Club. “We started with 13 families and are now we are up to 26 families and more are added daily.”
Founded in 2016, and operated out of the Temple Emanu-El in Westfield, the Fun Club’s primary mission is to help newly resettled refugee families create a foundation for lasting success in America. The Fun Club provides ESL lessons, advice to parents on navigating the healthcare and school systems as well as job training, resume building and even driving lessons. For the kids, they offer homework tutoring, art, music, SAT prep, college and financial aid assistance.
Although the coronavirus pandemic has paused most of the Fun Club’s activities, Jenny Tananbaum has seen her community come together for the greater good.
“As so many services shut down, it is even more vitally important that we ensure the safety and welfare of those who need us the most,” says Jenny.
“Now more than ever people have jumped at the chance to help. Maybe it is because this is one chance to have some control during a time when things feel out of control. The amount of food and monetary donations has been unbelievable. We have been contacted from all over - from friends and strangers, alike.”
Former refugees previously supported by the Fun Club are also stepping up to help out their neighbors in need.
“At the Fun Club we got support and guided on the right path and now we have to give back to the hand that gave us a lot in the beginning,” shares Reem, a former refugee now volunteering during the grocery drives.
“We love helping other refugees because we have been in the same situation and we feel how refugees struggle in the beginning."
The coronavirus pandemic is challenging all communities and families but it’s also providing opportunities to find new inspiration and sources of hope.
“The entire community effort has been unbelievably inspiring,” says Jenny.
“The bonds we have forged fills us with great hope and reminds us that while we may come from different backgrounds, we are all really just the same. We are just moms and dads working to do the best for our families, and if we all work together we can make a difference.”
How you can help…
Do you know an everyday hero who is rallying their community during this time of need? We’d love to hear from you! Please contact us at Press@usaforunhcr.org and help us spread some more good news.
Want to do more? The UN Refugee Agency is on the ground ensuring health and safety for refugees – but we need your help. Donate today and help rush critical supplies like medicine, clean water, hygiene supplies and personal protection kits to desperate children and families.