Sponsorship 101: Pathways to Welcome – Part 2

NOTE: This article is the second in a two-part series that explores sponsorship options and how communities can get involved at every level. Read part one.

Private sponsorship: An exciting window of opportunity
Dana Martin, member of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Arlington, Virginia, and part of Neighbor to Neighbor’s Tri-Parish Sponsor Circle Team, is excited for the potential that private sponsorship offers through the sponsor circle model.

He notes, “I think it’s remarkable that our government came up with this and has invited local citizen groups to participate. It’s unusual to see national government/federal government cut through all the bureaucratic red tape and really enable and empower local groups to take on this responsibility and respond quickly. It’s my understanding that more people have been placed more quickly than at any time in this country’s history… I hope this inspires other efforts in other areas going forward.”

In season 6, episode 5 of Episcopal Migration Ministries’ “HomeTown” podcast, Allison Duvall, senior manager for church relations and engagement for Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM), describes the differences, advantages, and challenges of private sponsorship.

“In private models of sponsorship, all of the resources—financial, material, and volunteer—are privately raised; there is no federal funding associated with the provision of services when someone first arrives,” she notes.

Depending on the immigration status of the person being sponsored, they might be eligible for some other assistance. But in private sponsorship, Duvall notes, team members should be prepared “to fundraise many thousands of dollars, to find housing, to assign tasks and responsibilities to members of the team—responsibilities that may include going to the Social Security office, enrolling children in school, and assisting with enrollment of benefits.”

Canada has had a successful government resettlement model and private sponsorship model for decades, Duvall says.

“A lot of what we’re doing in the U.S. is borrowing from our Canadian friends,” she says. “We know from their experience that this does work—and we know from our own experience in these early days that private sponsorship works here as well.”

But it takes a lot of work.

“This is something where you want a committed circle of neighbors who care about this work passionately and are willing to work to fund it and then enact it when their new neighbors arrive,” Duvall says.

Zoë Bayer, EMM’s post-arrival program officer, shares in her excitement, noting that this point in time is really just “an exciting place to be.”

How is sponsorship tied to our faith?

In this podcast, Duvall shares the story of how her faith community in Lexington, Kentucky, co-sponsored a Bosnian family when she was a youth—and the impact that had on what she does today.

“In the last several years, we’ve seen such vociferous anti-immigrant and anti-refugee sentiment—looking back, it is remarkable to me that welcoming new neighbors was so normalized for me when I was a child,” she said. “We are Christians—so we welcome our neighbors who are fleeing persecution. That’s literally just what you do.”

She notes that when faith communities—whether Christian or Muslim or Jewish or other traditions—work together to welcome their neighbors, and include young people in that work, that practice gets normalized.

“This should be a normal cornerstone of who we are as Americans, and who we are as members of different faith traditions,” Duvall says. “I think it’s really important that we continue to teach the younger generations that this is part of what it means to be an American, and it’s part of what it means to be a follower of Jesus or a follower of any faith tradition.”

Bayer shares her admiration as organizations continue to step up in an intergenerational, ecumenical effort.

“Organizations that have different faith backgrounds will all band together with the common goal of welcoming newcomers,” she says. “And this is really kind of a universal value in a lot of different faiths. It’s really beautiful to see that connection across faith communities within one city, working together to welcome these families.”

If you are interested in doing this critical work of welcome, there is room for everyone’s gifts at every level of sponsorship! Please check out the resources and action items below to help us build beloved community through welcoming our newest neighbors.

Next steps/additional resources: 

Make a donation to Episcopal Migration Ministries