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 to 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 to 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 in 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 master mind 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.
Shirley Richards, Board Member – Citizenship Chair
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.
Loretta Dees, Board Member – Communications Chair
Loretta offers communication and some grant writing volunteer work to Heartfelt Tidbits and teaches citizenship classes. She has a background in foundation work and recently graduated from Northern Kentucky University with her Masters in Communication.She has a firm desire to be part making a difference in the lives of people by listening and letting herself be changed by others, and enjoys working with our newest neighbors in Cincinnati. The refugees allow her to use her creativity and their culture energizes her. For these things, she is grateful.
Carol Gates – Board Member
Carol began as a volunteer in 2015 after hearing about Heartfelt Tidbits. As a member of Northminster Presbyterian Church Refugee Ministry team she felt a calling to support local refugees. She joined the board mid 2016. Her role on the board is multi faceted. She meets on a regular basis with clients being served by the organization, provides suggestions for improvements and process change along with being the communication link between Heartfelt Tidbits and Northminster Presbyterian Church.
Mel Cohen – Board Member
Mel Cohen holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from The Pennsylvania State University and recently retired from Miami University after a thirty-year career on the Middletown Campus. While at Miami he co-taught a study-abroad course, Health Care and Health Policy in The Gambia, in addition to advising Model United Nations and helping initiate the campus’s ongoing refugee related programming. Mel currently teaches a Friday citizenship class that includes current events in addition to preparation for the naturalization test and interview. As part of theBoard Mel looks forward to helping develop a sustainable organization that enhances the lives of refugees and enriches the overall community as well.
Shiva Chamlagai – Board Member
Amsu Rajbhandari – Advisor
In 1998, Amsu Rajbhandari left Nepal to start a new life in US. After he graduatedfrom University of Cincinnati, he joined Procter & Gamble, where currently works as a senior scientist.In early years of life in 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.
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.