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Local Organizations Aid Syracuse-Area Immigrants Through The Pandemic

The New American Forum

Over 40,000 immigrants live in the Syracuse-metro area. They speak a variety of languages, work as essential employees, and often don’t have the same access to information and resources that other populations do. During the COVID-19 pandemic, these factors make them vulnerable.

One local organization is trying to mitigate the varying and unique struggles in our New American community. 

New Americans have played a big role in helping drive economic growth in places like Central New York. The New American Economy reports that foreign-born residents contributed$1.7 Billion to the GDP of the metro area in 2014. But when crisis strikes, these communities are often more at risk. The COVID-19 pandemic has been no different. 

“I get a call from families that ‘I don’t have this one. I don’t have money. I cannot go outside,’” said Subedi. “So what we do is we pack up and then deliver to their family at their addresses.”

Jay Subedi is one of the leaders of The New American Forum. The organization has been translating information about the health crisis, providing masks to families, and distributing meals to those in need. 

“I myself have spent 18 years in refugee life. I spent many days and nights with a half meal. I know the pain, the suffering, the situation we had to go through,” said Subedi. “And I’m just thinking about this time if someone doesn’t have food to eat in their daily life.”

Syracuse Common Councilor Chol Majok has lent his time, volunteering at local organizations.

“Organizations like New American Forum, InterFaith Works, Catholic Charities, all those organizations are doing their best to make sure they reach out to the New Americans. I have this task every week, Mayor, I deliver milk every week. We take it to families that have children and what have you.”

Majok is a former Sudaneese refugee. The organizations he mentioned have delivered hundreds of donated meals to those in need since the start of the pandemic. And COVID-19 is harming people and families in these communities, as it does in others.

“There are new Americans, actually, from sub-Saharan Africa that tested positive. So it’s there. It’s there,” said Majok. “It’s just that, we talk about New Americans, there’s over 10,000 refugees hre, and in the metropolitan area there’s close to 41,000. Yes, they are being affected.”

And that large population means working with people from a variety of countries, who speak different languages and have different customs

“It’s a big job. I think we have a big number of diverse communities all across the city and county area,” said Subedi. “And we have to work with everybody to help them. So that is our big effort going on now. We are working on it.”

Subedi said they’re starting to deliver more than just hundreds of meals. The New American Forum recently received funding to provide other basic necessities to immigrants during the health crisis, like cleaning supplies, toiletries, and diapers. 

“I call a call from a family that day that don’t have diapers. So all of those needy things that we are trying to address at this time,” said Subedi.

Subedi said they have received great help from the greater Syracuse community, with people donating time, meals and money. He said anyone who wishes to help or needs help can contact the New American Forum.


Katie Zilcosky is WAER’s All Things Considered host and features reporter. She also co-hosts WAER’s public affairs show Syracuse Speaks. As a reporter, she focuses on technology, economy, and identity.