Hearts You Hold welcomes United African Organization as a Connecting Organization! This organization is based in Chicago, IL and is a dynamic coalition of African community-based organizations that promotes social and economic justice, civic participation, and empowerment of African immigrants and refugees in Illinois. This small organization has 5 hard working staff members and has been in existence for 14 years.
UAO provides comprehensive basic needs services for low-income African refugee and immigrant families including access to emergency food, application assistance for public benefits and external and internal program referrals. UAO also assists underserved African immigrants and refugees by providing affordable and quality immigration legal services, including citizenship applications. For nearly a decade, UAO has been at the forefront of advocacy efforts around issues affecting African immigrants and to advance public policies that increase opportunities and support for immigrant and refugee integration.
Our clients represent very diverse needs – from new immigrants trying to navigate the American system, not-so-recent immigrants looking to become naturalized citizens, to asylum seekers who have trekked through the jungles of Central America to escape violence in their home countries, to women experiencing domestic abuse. This makes the work of a small organization like ours challenging – not to mention emotionally taxing on our small staff. Furthermore, the language and cultural diversity of African immigrants and refugees in Chicago/Illinois further complicate the work that we do.
When the Program Director, Fasika Alem, was asked about the challenges they face she answered, “The largest barrier is always funding. Most programmatic funding arrangements do not provide funds to meet emergency needs, such as housing, food, and clothing needs for asylum seekers arriving from the Mexican border. This requires us to seek support for these types of needs through individual giving and organizations like Hearts You Hold that provide the essential links between organizations like UAO and individuals looking to help.”