2017 Refugee Advocate of the Year

Hello Neighbor is proud to announce that Jessica Jackley is the inaugural recipient of the Refugee Advocate of the Year award!

Sloane Davidson, Founder and CEO of Hello Neighbor and Jessica Jackley, Hello Neighbor’s 2017 Refugee Advocate of the Year. Photo credit: Craig Photography

This award was given to Jessica during Hello Neighbor’s graduation ceremony held on October 6th, 2017 at Alloy 26 in Pittsburgh’s Northside where she was also the commencement speaker.

We graduated 25 “matches” — 25 refugee families and 25 Pittsburgh families — who were matched together for a 4-month mentorship program.

In total, we had 193 people in the program, including 88 kids under the age of 18. We started with 85 but welcomes 3 new babies (2 Syrian and 1 Afghani) to the world this summer! The refugees originated from 7 countries — Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Congo, Rwanda, Myanmar and Bhutan. The mentors live in 23 different zip codes. This was truly a Pittsburgh community effort!

Over the course of 4 months, the mentors and mentees spent on average 350 hours a month together for a collective total of over 1,400 hours across 400 individual activities. Plus, here at Hello Neighbor, we produced 8 official Hello Neighbor activities including monthly potlucks in parks around the city and events held at, and in partnership with, The Andy Warhol Museum, The Frick Pittsburgh, Riverlife and The Gateway Clipper, The Pittsburgh Pirates, The Pittsburgh Riverhounds, and Heinz History Center (and more).

Graduation was the culmination of an intense year of a lot of work by many many people, advisors, friends, volunteers, interns and countless others.

I was so honored and proud to be able to give Jessica this award, which is beyond well-deserved for not only her extensive professional and personal background helping refugees and immigrants around the world but also the way she continues to lead her life with intention with a focus on supporting others in both her local and global community.

Jessica giving her commencement speak to mentors and mentees at Hello Neighbor’s graduation. Photo credit: Craig Photography

Below is an excerpt from my introduction of Jessica. At our graduation she brought her husband, three young sons and parents. What an incredible joy to have them in the room to see her accept this award!

Cyrus Aslan stealing the show with his speech! Photo credit: Craig Photography

It was even more amazing because all of her kids came up to accept the award with her. A big principle at Hello Neighbor is that our programs are for the whole family so it was amazing to see Jessica and her family embrace one of our core principles. Then, to our amazement, one of her sons, Cyrus, gave his first public speech at the tender age of 7! Yes, really! Jessica told the crowd of over 150 people that Cyrus had seen her preparing for her speech and asked if he could share something. Sure enough, he took the mic from Mama and delivered a heartfelt speech (text is below). He wrote about a refugee family that lived with their family this year at they worked to get on their feet and build their new lives here in America. It was a showstopper!

Speech courtesy of Cyrus Aslan

For Jessica’s part, she talked about the value of community. Not just the ephemeral idea of community but really getting to know people and support people in our neighborhoods. She spoke about how her path led her to start Kiva and many of the adventures and accomplishments she’s experienced along the way. She emphasized how Hello Neighbor tied to her core beliefs that doing the real work is hard but where we see the most value. That is certainly something we agree with and subscribe to. What we do, the matchmaking, the event calendar and community programming, the development of educational resources, the sheer amount of time we spend with mentors and mentees — it’s not easy work. Yet we believe this is what will really make a positive impact on the lives of the refugees, the notion that this time spent with them will have a measurable positive impact on their lives. The same holds true for the time we spend educating mentors. We spend time educating them on refugee and immigration issues to create an opportunity for them to then speak out and have a transformative affect on their communities.

We will have the full text of Jessica’s speech and a video from graduation to share soon. In the meantime, below is a portion of my introduction.

Photo credit: Craig Photography

I am so proud to introduce our Commencement Speaker and Recipient of the 2017 Refugee Advocate of the Year Award Recipient, Jessica Jackley.

Jessica is a force to be reckoned with.

Jessica Jackley is an award-winning social entrepreneur. She is perhaps best known as the co-founder of Kiva, the world’s first and largest P2P micro lending website. She also co-founded Pro-Founder, a crowdfunding platform for U.S. entrepreneurs, and Kin & Co., a consultancy helping organizations support women and working families. She is an investor and advisor with Collaborative Fund, a board member for Habitat for Humanity, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader. Jackley holds degrees from Bucknell University and the Stanford Graduate School of Business, as well as a certificate in Global Leadership and Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School. She currently serves as Social Entrepreneur in Residence at the University of Southern California and was recently named a venture partner at SparkLabs Global Ventures.

Jessica is the author of the widely acclaimed book CLAY WATER BRICK: Finding Inspirations from Entrepreneurs Who Do the Most with the Least. I loved it, if you haven’t read it I highly recommend it. Her TED talk, Poverty, Money and Love has been viewed more than 1 million times and she has a second TEDxStanford talk with her husband, Resa Aslan, on interfaith marriages and their decision around how to raise their three young sons.

While Jessica is a native Pittsburgher, she currently lives in Los Angeles with her family where I know her proudest title is likely mom.

I feel so fortunate to call Jessica a friend, a mentor, an inspiration, and someone I can call — and have — to ask questions like, “Am I doing this the right way?” In turn, she will give me candid and honest advice which all entrepreneurs will tell you is hard to come by.

This past year, Jessica and her husband, who both already do so much professionally and personally standing up for what they believe in, went one step further. Through an organization in Los Angeles, they took in a newly resettled refugee family who did not have a place to live. They opened their home to this family and helped them settle into to their new lives. I imagine that was an incredibly hard decision, but also an easy one for a family like theirs who believe in taking action for what they believe in.

Jessica is an advocate, inspiration and role model for so many and I am honored to present her with the 2017 Refugee Advocate of the Year Award from Hello Neighbor. The first time we have ever given out this award and I can’t think of a more deserving person. Jessica, please come up and accept your award.

Thank you to everyone who helped make the first class of mentors and mentees at Hello Neighbor a success! It’s been an incredibly journey and we’re so excited to take all of these learnings and turn around to launch the second class of Hello Neighbor’s mentorship program.

To find out more about Hello Neighbor visit our website at https://www.helloneighbor.io/ or follow us on social media — we’re @helloneighborhq on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.