CARR Program Updates, Upcoming Events, and More!
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Inside this issue: Holiday Outreach, CARR Updates, Part 2 of Musa's Story, and plenty of photos from our events!
HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS: Local Holiday Outreach Efforts for Refugees

Aimee, a Rwandan refugee, and her mom and brothers with their host family for Thanksgiving dinner. (More photos at the bottom of this newsletter.)

This holiday season, NAMS helped our families participate in several outreach opportunities in the city. For Thanksgiving, three families were able to dine with host families, exchanging cultures, languages, and foods. Then, this December, three different groups provided gifts, toys, and holiday spirit for our newer refugee families to celebrate their first Christmas in America. 

An Airbnb Thanksgiving
As part of their nation-wide Supper With Us Initiative, Airbnb worked to connect refugee families with American families for Thanksgiving this November. Jaime, our case manager, was able to connect three families to homes hosting dinner over Thanksgiving weekend.

Aimee, one of our Rwandan refugees, was able to participate in this meaningful and unique experience with her family. She said that the family was welcoming and made them feel at home. They watched football, listened to music, and talked about everything from entertainment to politics. Aimee's family ate traditional American food, different from anything they had eaten before. "I loved the Turkey and the sauce and the pumpkin pie," Aimee said. She said they were able to listen to each others stories; the experience was all about interacting with different languages, cultures, religions, families, foods, etc. and accepting. "They were a wonderful family," she said. "We kept talking the whole time!"

All of the families have met with their American host families since that dinner and are continuing to learn from each other and interact with one another. Sloane Davidson, from one of the host families, wrote about the experience from her perspective, and her blog went viral. You can read it here.

Joy to the World
This Christmas, several groups in Pittsburgh had outreach initiatives to specifically impact refugee communities. In addition to NAMS's Winter Clothing Drive, our families were able to participate in a toy drive, a Christmas gift program, and a holiday party. 

One of the Syrian families opening their Dove Tree Christmas gifts.

Through a toy drive coordinated by Play It Forward, many of our families were able to pick out toys for their families. The organization let NAMS take clients before the actual giveaway day. Around 20 families were served through this program, picking out three toys per child and as many books as they wanted.

Fox Chapel Presbyterian Church sponsored another gift giveaway through their Dove Tree Program. Through donations, 19 refugee families received gifts that were tailored to the family. Two church members volunteered to help deliver gifts to their designated families. In total, over $5000 in gifts was given to our families for Christmas. 

Finally, North Allegheny Intermediate High School hosted a holiday party for 3 of our families--Syrian, Somali, and Congolese. At this party, they decorated cookies, made craft snowflakes, sang Christmas songs, ate pizza, and gave out gifts.

Each of these opportunities gave refugees the chance to celebrate the holidays with Americans, exchanging cultures and stories and learning from each other. Aimee was inspired by the generosity and spirit of togetherness this holiday season, saying, "We should not be afraid to interact. It opens us up and gives us confidence."

VITAL VOICES: Musa's Story (Part 2)
Missed last month's newsletter? You can read Part 1 of Musa's story here.

Musa is a Sudanese refugee who was resettled in Pittsburgh through NAMS. This photo was taken during his time in Indonesia.

Musa: I learned so many languages while I was in Indonesia. When I first got to Indonesia in 2012, we went to Medan, a city in northern Indonesia. We met Indonesian people and introduced ourselves. They spoke to us in Indonesian, asking us, “Can you speak Indonesian?” which was “Kuma bisa bahasa Indonesia?” We misunderstood what they were saying. We answered, “Yeah, we have visas and passports,” because “bisa” sounded like “visa.” The other question they asked us was, “What country are you from?” which was “Kuma dari negara mana?” We also misunderstood this question because it sounded like they were saying “Nigeria.” “No, we are not from Nigeria,” we answered them. “We are from Sudan!”
I was able to learn more languages when I was released from the detention center into the International Organization for Migration (IOM) housing accommodations. There, I made many friends from different countries. Living together in this housing, we were like one family. My time with IOM allowed me to learn several different languages just from interacting with people who were speaking other languages. I listened and learned to repeat phrases. I learned Farsi, more Indonesian, and a little bit of Burmese.
During our time there, we had different activities to do from IOM such as soccer, International TB Day, International Refugee Day, and more. I was trained by IOM in budgeting/personal finances, English, and more. Church World Services (CWS) also helped many of the families that were working with IOM and UNHCR. They helped families with finances, counseling, schooling, housing. I had counseling sessions with a woman called Ibu Nike. She was helpful in advising and caring about the refugees. I am very thankful for the help I received through Ibu Nike and IOM.
Eventually, I got a call from the UN office telling me that my case would be transferred to the US embassy. After four months, I got another call for the resettlement interview. Another nine or 10 months later, I had another interview with Dept. of Homeland Security. Then, I received a call from IOM medical, 20 days later. I passed the medical exam, and a few months later, I got my plane ticket to come to the US. I was so happy. They told me I would fly to Pittsburgh. I looked on YouTube to find out about Pittsburgh, and I saw an interview with Kheir, the director of CARR at NAMS. He was talking about refugee resettlement and communities in Pittsburgh. At that point, I didn’t know I would be resettled through Northern Area, just that I was going to Pittsburgh.
I flew from Jakarta to Dubai to Chicago to Pittsburgh. When I got to the Pittsburgh airport, I met Jaime, the caseworker at Northern Area. She was waiting for me at the gate. We introduced ourselves, and then she took me to my apartment where she explained a little bit to me about life in Pittsburgh. The next week, I worked with Jaime, the intern Emily, and my job developer Ikuma to start settling into life here in the US.
Coming to America was a dream come true. Here, I have opportunities for more education and better jobs. In the future, I hope that I can continue to gain education. I want to learn more languages. I want to volunteer with human rights organizations. I hope that one day I can help solve the problems in my home country, Sudan.

*Correction to Part 1: Musa arrived in Indonesia in 2012 and stayed there for almost five years. Part 1 was incorrectly edited to say that he had been there for almost five years in 2012.

Stay up-to-date with everything happening at the Community Assistance & Refugee Resettlement Department! We have a lot going on this winter! Keep reading to find out about our community groups, program updates, and more.

Community Groups
Our Knitting Group and Women's Craft Corner have been meeting regularly, learning new craft skills and even gaining new members! This December, the Women's Craft Corner made ornaments for the holiday season. Our Knitting Group also learned beading techniques and, in addition to jewelry pieces, made several key chains for new arrivals to use. The groups will continue to develop various craft skills including knitting, sewing, painting, beading, and more!

Left: Ornaments made by the Women's Craft Corner. Right: Jewelry and keychains made by the Knitting Group.

New ESL Classes
Through the work of volunteers and a partnership with the Sharpsburg Library, NAMS is now offering ESL classes. The class meets on Thursdays at 1pm at the Sharpsburg Library. This offers additional tutoring for our clients, giving them the opportunity to interact with community members and have more individualized ESL lessons.

Targeted Assistance Program (TAP)
Amy, our TAP job skills developer, has been working to increase computer literacy opportunities and lessons for TAP clients. In particular, clients have been focusing on typing skills and basic computer literacy, which includes basic computer use, using the Internet, navigating Windows operating system, and learning basic commands such as copy and paste. Amy is also developing a Microsoft Access workshop. These computer skills workshops are tailored to each individual's particular needs to best assist them in achieving upward professional mobility.
PHOTOS: More from "Home for the Holidays"
One of our Syrian families having an American-style Thanksgiving.
Presents for the whole family.
Their first Christmas in America!
Thanks to everyone who generously gave to our families.

Jan. 21 -- 19th Summit Against Racism | 8am-5pm | Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, 616 N Highland Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15206 | Find out more about the event here. Register for the event here.

Jan. 24 -- Information Session on Artist in the Public Realm Call for Artists | 6pm | Northern Area Multi-Service Center, 209 13th St., Pittsburgh, PA 15215 | Find out more about the event here

More events coming soon! Stay updated through our Facebook page and email list to find out about our latest fundraisers and community events!

For more information about events, please contact us at 412-781-1175 ext. 2071 or at, or stay updated through the NAMS Facebook page.


Volunteer -- Volunteers play an integral role in helping us welcome and serve refugees. As a volunteer, you will have the chance to engage with refugees and help them integrate into our community as they start their new lives. Opportunities include:
  • Mentoring refugee families on basic life skills
  • Helping to navigate the public transit system 
  • Connecting refugees to community and social service providers
Anyone interested in these opportunities can call 412-781-1175 ext. 2248 or email to find out more.

Donate -- We work hard to make refugees feel welcome in their homes. Your donations of gently-used goods, including kitchenware, personal hygiene products, and furniture are greatly appreciated. We also welcome monetary donations. For a more detailed list of currently-accepted donations and information on how to donate materially and financially, please contact us at 412-781-1175 ext. 2248 or at

TASTE OF HOME: Recipe from our Refugee Communities
Shish Barak is a traditional dish made in several Middle Eastern/Asian countries, including Syria. The dish consists of meat dumplings cooked in a yogurt-based stew. 

Shish Barak Dough (20 Servings)
  • 5 cups of multipurpose flour
  • 1 and 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 and 1/4 cups of water
  • 1/4 teaspoon yeast
  • 1/2 cup of warm water (to melt the yeast)
  • 1/8 teaspoon of sugar (to melt with yeast)
Meat Stuffing (20 Servings)
  • 1 lb of lean ground beef
  • 1 teaspoon of Lebanese 7-spices
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of salt (to taste)
  • 2 small red onions finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup of pine nuts
  • Some Olive Oil
Shish Barak Stew (4 Servings)
  • 1 lb of Labneh
  • 6 cups of water
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 heaping teaspoon of dried mint powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dried cilantro leaves
  • 1 lemon (juiced)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt (or to taste)
*Note: If using Greek yogurt instead of Labneh, then use 5 cups of yogurt and 1 cup of water
Meat Stuffing Preparation Method (20 mins)
  • Sautee the onions with a bit of olive oil until they start turning pinkish (10 mins)
  • Add the ground beef, 7-spices, salt, mix well and then sautee until the beef is cooked (10 minutes)
  • Add the pine nuts in the last 5 minutes. The meat stuffing is now ready.
Dough Preparation Method (20 mins)
  • Mix the dough ingredients in a food processor (or knead with hands) and let rest for a few minutes.
  • When ready, place dough on kitchen counter that’s been dusted with flour, and flatten into a large disk the thickness of 2 dimes (1/8th of an inch).
  • Using a bottle lid (or small cookie cutter), cut the dough into disks the size of a quarter (3/4th of an inch in diameter).
  • Place cut dough on a plate that’s been dusted with flour.
  • Place 1/3 to 1/2 teaspoon of meat stuffing in the center of each dough piece, fold edges in and close them on the meat, then pull edges around and fold them on one another, then flatten the sides to make it all look like a “hat” or ravioli.
  • Line up all the dumplings on a flour dusted plate
  • If you’re making extra dumplings for future use, lay dumplings on a flour dusted tray in the freezer for a couple of hours, and then pack them in small ziplog bags (about 7 – 8 oz each) and store back in freezer for a few months. Each bag (or 7 – 8 oz) of ready dumplings can make 4 servings.
Shish Barak Cooking Method 1 (with Labneh) (40 minutes)
  • Pour 6 cups of water and 1 lb of labneh in a pot, mix well until all Labneh is dissolved, then place on stove over medium-low heat and keep on stirring gently until it reaches a boil, at which time you turn the heat to low.
  • Add 2 crushed cloves of garlic
  • Add the dried mint powder and cilantro leaves
  • Add 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon of salt (to taste)
  • Add juice from 1 freshly squeezed lemon. If you’re using goat yogurt you can skip this step.
  • Add the Shish Barak dumplings, bring the stew to a boil again, and then stir gently on low heat for 15-20 minutes until the shish barak dumplings are cooked.
  • Serve hot as a soup 
Cooking Method 2 (with Greek Yogurt) (50 minutes)
  • Pour 5 cups of plain yogurt (Greek yogurt) and 1 cup of water in a pot and stir continuously on low heat until it reaches a boil. It is very important that heat is very low and stirring is constant otherwise the yogurt may break apart and can’t be salvaged
  • Follow steps 2-7 above
Preparation time: 1 hour(s)
Cooking time: 40 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 4
Video Instructions
Photo Instructions

PHOTO STORIES: Our Work in Pictures
Ariel teaching the Knitting Group beading techniques with Shashi's help.
The Women's Craft Group learning painting skills for ornaments.
Hats and scarves, knitted and sent by a group of girls in California. 
Donations collected by community member Craig Prince from various donors around Pittsburgh!
Donations from our Winter Clothing Drive displayed on shelves in the office.
One of the volunteers sorts out all the coats from our clothing drive.
Clients came to the office to look through piles of coats, sweaters, scarves, hats, gloves, and socks.
Use the links below to connect with us on social media, check out our website, and share this newsletter.
Northern Area Multi-Service Center
Community Assistance and Refugee Resettlement (CARR)
209 13th Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15215
412-781-1175 ext. 2248
CARR website

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CARR · 209 13th Street · Pittsburgh, PA 15215 · USA

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