The story of Project Home begins with another organization active in our community, Keene Immigrant and Refugee Partnership or KIRP, and the good work they have done over the last two years.
Keene is a small college town (population 23,000) set amid rural communities in southwestern New Hampshire: not unlike countless other towns and small cities across the U.S. In the immediate wake of the 2016 Muslim immigration ban imposed by presidential executive order, two small groups independently met in the café section of the local co-op grocery store to share their outrage and to forge an appropriate and effective response. Each group quickly became aware of the presence of the other, and so they joined forces and founded Keene Immigrant and Refugee Partnership. KIRP is now an established force for hope and welcome to immigrants in the city of Keene. A group of 15 to 20 meet regularly, working directly to meet the needs of immigrants in the area, and advocating with city, state and national representatives to resist anti-immigrant sentiments and to work for a humane and welcoming immigration policy.
In the late summer of 2019, we were getting constant reports of traumatized children deprived of parental care and locked in cages at our borders. Horrified by what was happening, a friend called another friend to say, “We have to do something!” A small group gathered, including several members of KIRP. They coalesced around the understanding that when asylum seekers come to our country, families should not be separated, they should not be put in jail, and they should be given a fair shot at making their asylum-seeking case. And clearly if they didn’t belong in jail, then they belonged in our communities.
Uncertain how to make that happen and whether there would be support in our community for this approach, group members joined a vigil in the town square in support of refugees. They asked the community to get involved, to be part of designing and implementing a model that would bring five asylum-seeking families or individuals to our community, where they would live with host families throughout their legal process. Over fifty people signed up to join this effort, and Project Home was born. The numbers have grown since then!
Project Home, nurtured and led by a dedicated core team, is now a non-profit corporation whose mission is to provide our asylum-seeking guests with legal support, to meet their basic needs such as housing and food, and to provide a versatile support team to help them connect with the community and with any necessary services such as mental health, medical care, education, and job training.
Meet The Team
Susan has been a founding member of several social justice organizations and efforts, including the Keene Immigrant and Refugee Partnership and Project Home. She is deeply moved by the opportunity to help her community open its arms to asylum seekers and to use the learnings from this work to help other communities do the same. Her background is in counseling and human resources and her day job is running her career coaching business for college students and new graduates. Susan lives in Keene NH with her husband Bill.
is co-owner and COO of the WS Badger Co. In addition to Katie's full time work in leadership at Badger, she has spearheaded the development of the company’s child friendly policies, babies at work program, and the childcare center, as well as prioritizing the certified B Corporation status. Katie has a Master's in Education and was a lead teacher at the Monadnock Waldorf School for 12 years, with an additional 5 years teaching economics and entrepreneurship to seniors at the High School. Katie recently completed her MFA degree at Goddard College.
Ven. Derek Scalia
Rev. Derek Scalia is an arch-deacon in the Episcopal Church of New Hampshire. He is a graduate from the Province One School for Deacons as well as Woodbury College and Franklin Pierce University. Through various organizations . Derek is also a staff member at Franklin Pierce University where he leads programs and initiatives on leadership, diversity, and inclusion. As part of his work with Project Home, Derek seeks to bring together faith communities and other organizations to offer broader support for those seeking asylum.
Dr. Larry Welkowitz
Dr. Mohammad Saleh
Dr. Mohammad Saleh is a scientist/engineer by profession and an engaged citizen in Keene, NH. Mohammad is the vice-chair of the Human Rights Committee of the Keene city and an active member of the Keene Immigration and Refugee Partnership (KIRP). He believes that humanity is at a crossroad, and to meet the challenges of the increasingly global civilization we should extend our hands toward people who are different from us.
Professor and Chair of Psychology at Keene State College. Published author and long time proponent of the neurodiversity movement in the fields of Autism and Developmental Disabilities. Larry is also an original member of the Keene Immigrant and Refugee Project whose mission is to create a welcoming city for people coming to the US from other lands.
Dr. Judy Reed
Dr. Judith Reed began her career as a classroom teacher. She was Lower School Director at Moorestown Friends School in southern NJ, and then Head of Horizon’s Edge School in Canterbury, NH. For over 20 years she was a professor of teacher education in the University System of NH, specializing in social justice education. She co-founded Spark Teacher Education Institute in Brattleboro VT. She is now Professor Emerita in the Education Department at Keene State College.
David Blair has lived in Harrisville since 1975 and worked in the public schools for the Harris Center and as the ConVal District ESL director for 16 years. David co-founded the Mariposa Museum and World Culture Center, where he has served as education director, executive director and board member to foster peace, global awareness and understanding across cultural boundaries.
Rianne is a professor of US History at Worcester State University. She has a BA in philosophy, MA in Holocaust and Genocide Studies, and a PhD (currently writing dissertation) in US History. Her education and teaching is focused on attempting to learn about the past so as to make better decisions about how to move forward as a united people throughout the world.
Alejandro was born and grew up in the Dominican Republic, where for over 20 years he taught sustainable development and economics. His professional experience includes youth workforce development, building opportunities for at-risk youth, sustainable tourism development, agriculture and climate change adaptation, and socio-economic research. He was also a member of Building the Fulbright Future (BFF), a binational initiative funded by the US State Department to envision common issues on immigration, climate change,
education and economic development across the Hispaniola Island.