CWS Lancaster in the Media

How one woman resettled over 6,000 refugees, transforming Lancaster County


 August 30, 2020

Her search for volunteers to help resettle desperate, usually destitute people uprooted from homelands around the world brought Sheila McGeehan Mastropietro one evening in June 2008 to a small church in Manor Township farm country.

SCORE Profile: Language Breaks Down Borders

SCORE Lancaster:

August 24, 2020

The Latino community has become a dominant force charging small business growth and driving $700 billion into the US economy. SCORE Lancaster-Lebanon serves a region that has a growing Latino population and a large refugee community. Communication is key to effective mentoring, and bridging these language barriers soon became a goal for the Chapter.

Celebrating 10th year calling Lancaster home


 June 20, 2020

I am writing to commemorate my 10 years in the United States, at a time when the U.S. government is turning its back on millions of refugees. I hope the story of my decade in Lancaster will inspire you to stand with all refugees, so they can succeed and contribute to this community.

A Conversation with Sheila Mastropietro

Hourglass Lancaster:

Jonathan Russell (Executive Director of Hourglass) and Sheila Mastropietro, (Lancaster Office Director, Church World Service) sat down for a conversation about how the work of Church World Service has been affected by the Coronavirus.

'When Stars are Scattered' Recounts Omar Mohamed's Refugee Experience


Think back to when you were 4 years old. Picture playing outside. Picture your father.

Now picture him being killed by soldiers. Imagine fleeing with your younger brother, through the African bush amid tigers, hyenas and snakes, alone in a group of strangers, separated from your mother and sisters. Imagine walking for three months, arriving at a refugee camp and spending the next 15 years there.

Imagine finally, after years of struggle, years of waiting, years of heartache, getting the opportunity to resettle somewhere safe.

A Civil War, Then the Long Limbo of Life as a Refugee

The New York Times:

Late in WHEN STARS ARE SCATTERED (Dial Books for Young Readers, 264 pp., $20.99; ages 9 to 12), 17-year-old Omar Mohamed [CWS Lancaster Resettlement Case Manager and Cultural Navigator] is asked to write a paper on “What It Means to Be a Refugee” for what he complains must be the 20th time since he started school six years earlier. Consider this fantastic graphic novel to be his 21st — and definitive — word on the subject. Written and illustrated by the Newbery Honor winner Victoria Jamieson (“Roller Girl”), based on extensive interviews with Mohamed, now a U.S. citizen who aids refugee resettlement, the book chronicles young Omar’s real-life experiences during the 15 years he spent in the U.N.-run Dadaab camp in Kenya.

Bureaucratic hurdle served to affirm county’s true nature


When President Donald Trump first issued Executive Order 13888 requiring state and local consent to continue refugee resettlement, we agreed with LNP’s Editorial Board that it added a “maddening amount of bureaucracy” and acted as a serious “impediment to resettling refugees” here.

Time and resources — better spent helping refugees integrate into their local communities — instead were spent advocating for a program that has been running smoothly in Lancaster County for more than three decades.

But somewhere along the way, our perspective shifted. What was once seen as a speed bump became an opportunity for outreach, for important conversations and for a reaffirmation of Lancaster County truly being the welcoming place we thought it was.

'Only in Lancaster': Amish, refugees come together for food, common ground


After the meal, Shadrack Bunkete started strumming his guitar and filled the barn with his voice.

“Sometimes I feel like a motherless child,” he repeated over and over.

“A long way from home.”

In this building with a propane heater in the corner and an Amish family’s goats below, Bunkete is a world away from his home in Congo.

He now lives in Lancaster, and is one of a surge of more than 70 million people displaced around the world.

Welcoming refugees now more work for our communities, after Trump's executive order


In September, President Donald Trump signed an executive order regarding where refugees can be resettled in the United States. For years, the federal government has worked productively with nonprofits and local authorities to resettle refugees. But Trump’s executive order potentially limits those efforts. It now requires consent from both states and local governments for refugees to be resettled. “You should be able to decide what is best for your own cities and for your own neighborhoods,” Trump said in October. In response, Church World Service, an international humanitarian organization that resettles refugees in Lancaster County and elsewhere, is urging municipal officials across southcentral Pennsylvania “to pass a resolution that would provide consent for refugee resettlement,” LNP’s Junior Gonzalez reported Nov. 21.

Community gathers to support refugee population, amid a Trump proposal that would 'zero' new refugees allowed in the U.S.


To rally against the Trump administration’s proposal to set the maximum number of refugees to zero for fiscal year 2020, about 150 people gathered in Penn Square on Saturday to show solidarity with Lancaster County’s refugees.

The “We Stand for Welcome” event, held outside Central Market, featured speeches from host Church World Service, Lancaster city Mayor Danene Sorace, faith leaders and some refugees who have resettled in Lancaster. The stories of the refugees — those who were separated from their families or are still separated — moved some of the members of the crowd to tears.

A Global Feast in an Unlikely Spot: Lancaster, Pa.

The New York Times:

LANCASTER, Pa. — Lancaster Central Market, a patchwork of stalls neatly encased in a Romanesque-style downtown building since 1889, has long been a bustling hub where the area’s large Pennsylvania Dutch population sells the fruit, meat, baked goods and other foods produced on farms outside the city.

These days, though, something different is in the air.

The heady scent of spices from the beef samosas at one stall, Rafiki Taste of Africa, mixes with the tang of onions and pineapple being chopped for salsa at Guacamole Specialist. The low growl of sugar cane being crushed into liquid can be heard at Havana Juice. A Puerto Rican flag hangs near the cash register at Christina’s Criollo, where empanadas and sweet plantains are on offer.

Soccer tournament for refugees unites players from different countries, backgrounds


The first year of Church World Service Lancaster’s soccer tournament for refugees was supposed to be low key.

The referees were all volunteers and just four teams signed up to play, said Stephanie Gromek, who co-runs the event.

Then 150 people came out to watch.

Four years later, the tournament — being held this weekend at Franklin & Marshall College — will feature food trucks, guest speakers and professional referees.

Eight teams out of 10 that applied will play on Saturday, with two teams advancing to the championship on Sunday, Gromek, Church World Service’s director of development and communications.

What Happens When The World's Most Famous Teen Activist Grows Up?




'Now they live in the light’: A Syrian refugee family finds only love and compassion in America

The Washington Post:

February 10, 2017

LANCASTER, Pa. — Maher Almahasneh returned home from his English language class to a small living room filled with guests. He calls them friends.

Harley Kooker, a 71-year-old dairy cattle veterinarian, was huddled in a kitchen corner assembling a new portable washing machine he’d persuaded a local appliance store to donate. His wife, Kate, was sitting on the couch letting the Almahasnehs’ 7-year-old daughter measure her head and her waist with a tape measure. Their case manager from Church World Service was also there, as was an Arabic translator. Within the hour two more women from their Mennonite church welcome team would drop in to say a quick hello…

What Happens When Refugees Are Resettled in the US? They—and the communities into which they’re placed—thrive.

The Nation:

By Michelle Chen February 9, 2017

Since President Trump issued his “Muslim ban” executive order, the country has been rocked by a cascade of political chaos, and now a critical legal battle that could soon reach the Supreme Court. But another, less visible crisis is unfolding in communities around the country, where global refugee diasporas have put down roots. For those set to arrive from the seven majority-Muslim nations targeted by the ban, Trump’s blatantly discriminatory decree represents an overarching challenge surrounding his election: how to bridge the divides of ideology and cultural difference in an insecure world.

While the various court challenges to the ban move ahead, refugee lives hang in the balance in Lancaster, Pennsylvania…

For Syrian refugees, uncertainty as legal battle over immigration ban unfolds

PBS News Hour:

 Feb 7, 2017

A Resettlement Mission Upended by the Sweep of a President’s Pen

The New York Times:

Lancaster, Pennsylvania: America's Refugee Capital

BBC News:

Lancaster, Pennsylvania has taken 1,300 refugees since 2013 but the policy is still controversial.

This US town takes 20 times more refugees per capita than the rest of the US.

A Joyful Bustle to Get Ready for Guests: Syrian Refugees

The New York Times:

Media Requests

To schedule an interview or reqeust information for a news story, please reach out to Stephanie Gromek, Development and Communications Coordinator.