We are excited to feature Cindy Zeldin for this month’s volunteer spotlight. Cindy is passionate about volunteering. That’s why when she moved to Atlanta five years ago she joined The Temple, a Reform Jewish congregation in Atlanta dedicated to social justice. Since then, she has dedicated herself to serving others in many ways, including presenting numerous programs to educate Temple congregants about refugees. Cindy has even engaged with educators, politicians, and media to further The Temple’s mission. Her work has helped so many, yet she says nothing has been as rewarding as helping a New American Pathways family from Afghanistan.
Cindy serves on The Temple’s board of trustees and leads the Rothchild Social Justice Institute Immigration Outreach Committee, which works to ensure fair, humane, compassionate, and dignified treatment to all refugees, asylum seekers, and immigrants to the United States regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, country of origin, legal standing, or political belief. Cindy knew that once people were fleeing from Afghanistan, the committee would be actively involved with a refugee resettlement agency, and they chose to work with New AP.
“From the minute I was in touch with Nancy Gaddy and all through the process of working with Baindu and Hana the experience has been professional to the highest degree,” says Cindy. “Any concerns or questions are always answered in a timely manner and working with them has been an absolute pleasure and joy. There were many agencies that The Temple could have partnered with, but this experience has been to such a high level that we shall continue working with them in the future. When the opportunity presented itself to become a ‘Family Friend’ to an Afghan family the excitement was overwhelming.”
When refugees arrive in the United States, they face many challenges, including adjusting to a new culture and learning a new language. The Family Friend Program is a three to six-month partnership, where a community or faith group dedicates its time and resources to help a refugee family adjust during this intense and often emotional time of transition, empowering them along their pathway to long-term success. Family Friend partner groups walk alongside newly arrived refugees on the pathway to self-sufficiency and success to serve as support and encouragement and to reinforce the programs and services that New AP provides. Family Friends also build capacity for case managers, which helps the families to become self-sufficient as quickly as possible.
“Helping a specific family from Afghanistan has been one of the most rewarding things I have ever done in my life. We see the family for several hours each week to tutor them and make them feel welcome. We have gone above and beyond what is expected of us. We have developed relationships with our family. We celebrate their birthdays together and have provided love and friendship whenever needed,” says Cindy.
Cindy also notes that New AP had a complete vetting process for anyone wanting to help with a family to become familiar with what responsibilities this volunteer opportunity would entail. The Temple and New AP have given the congregation of volunteers an opportunity to create a loving and safe haven for a family from Afghanistan, and Cindy says this partnership will continue for many years going forward. She says the team of volunteers are so very lucky to be connected with a family from Afghanistan, and the love shines through with each and every visit.
Cynthia R Zeldin, Psychotherapist, Life Coach, and Author, sees clients, teaches classes at Emory, plays golf, and has recently published a children’s book “Lily Tova the Therapy Dog.”