Refugee families come to the United States seeking a safe haven from violence and persecution in their home countries. They leave behind family and friends, as well as virtually everything they own. Many Americans, seeing these families in their communities, wonder: What can I do to help? Miry's List provides a mechanism for people to directly help new arrival refugee families with the things that they need to get started in their new lives – from diapers to beds to cleaning supplies and toiletries.
Our approach is divided into three chronological pillars that start from our families’ first steps off the plane:
Brand new arrival families are in “survival mode,” often living in motel rooms, jet-lagged, quiet, confused and scared. The goal in this initial phase is for each family member to rest, relax, and do whatever they need to do to feel safe. Services offered in Survive include: temporary housing, meal and groceries delivery, emergency supplies like diapers, wipes, cell phones, car seats.
Once a family has moved into their permanent home, we begin the Hive phase of our program. Like swarming bees, we surround our families with the people, services, and things they need to rebuild their lives. Services offered in Hive include: Wishlist creation, English tutoring, playdates, grocery shopping trips, rides to appointments, resume editing and employment mentoring, pregnancy support.
Refugees no longer, in the Thrive phase, our families feel safe, empowered, hopeful, and supported. One way we can tell that a family has reached the Thrive phase is when they ask about volunteering opportunities with Miry’s List. Refugees in survival model don't wonder whether their neighbors are struggling too -- their own immediate needs are too pressing. Thriving neighbors wonder how they can help other people around them. Services offered in Thrive include: New Arrival Supper Club event catering, volunteer and work opportunities at Miry’s List, specialized workshops and classes, reimbursement for job-seeking expenses, car donations, travel loan relief.
Miry's List uses crowdsourcing and social media to connect people like you, who want to help, with new refugee families who have needs that are not completely met by the organizations that sponsor them. Each family has unique needs – some have small children, elderly grandparents, or members with disabilities. So each family has a unique "list" of supplies that they need to get started. Here's how it works:
We hear of a newly arrived refugee family and go meet them in their first home – typically a scantily furnished (or unfurnished!) apartment, or even a motel room.
- Working with the family (and often a translator), a volunteer listmaker constructs a list of items, prioritized by need.
- This list is published as an Amazon Wishlist to make it available to generous donors who want to help by purchasing specific items for specific families. The items are then sent directly to the families.
- Take a look at The Lists now to see the families we are currently helping, and to help fulfill their lists! It's that simple to help a new refugee family.
- We also support refugee families through delivery of donated furniture and other large items, and special events like the New Arrival Supper Club.
- Over 60 family lists completed as of February 2017 with new lists added every week.
- More than 1,000 donors have purchased items through our lists in the past 6 months.
- First New Arrival Supper Club sold out, attended by 42 guests, as well as reporters and photographers from NBC News and LA Magazine.
- Dozens of in-person supply deliveries of donated items in Los Angeles and San Diego counties.
- More than 50 volunteer listmakers, translators, drivers, and family advocates serving our families every day.
- Over 100 playdates, birthday parties, English lessons, family dinners, shopping trips, school visits and doctor visits arranged between new arrival families and their new neighbors, enabling ice-breaking and bonding opportunities.
How We Started
It all began with a Jumperoo... Miry Whitehill-Ben Atar, a stay at home mom with a background in social media marketing, accidentally met a family of new arrival refugees from Syria. Having children of the same age, they felt an instant connection between them.
Miry's very first list was posted on her personal Facebook page to collect basic childcare and household supplies for the family. Two week is all it took to crowdsource and deliver all the items needed to turn the new arrival family's house into a home. Invigorated and inspired by the impact her list had for this family, Miry set out to meet more new arrival families in hope of helping them in a similar way.
To read Miry's whole story, click here.
Meet Our Team
Miry Whitehill-Ben Atar, Founder and CEO
Miry started Miry's List in July, 2016 when she accidentally met a family of new arrival Syrian refugees through a friend. Prior to that, she was a stay-at-home mom and community activist with over 10 years experience in digital marketing. She speaks fluent Hebrew and is learning Arabic in the car on an app with her son.
Miry serves as Treasurer on the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council. She can typically be found digging in the garden with her sons, Reuben and Sabo, or walking around Occidental College with her dog, Leroy. Miry's husband, Yeuda, is the founder and CEO of Beat Lab Academy music production school in Eagle Rock
Cyndi Otteson, President & Executive Director
Cyndi oversees all things Miry's List related including program development, social media, partnerships and overall strategy. Cyndi got involved with Miry's List at the very beginning helping to crowdsource supplies through her various mom groups for new arrival families in El Cajon.
Cyndi is an accomplished marketing executive with over 15 years experience in media strategy, and marketing for brands of all sizes. With Cyndi's entrepreneurial spirit and marketing background, paired with her empathetic and intuitive nature, she has helped grow Miry's List into the movement it is today.
Passionate about community activism, Cyndi believes it is her obligation to serve her community and anyone in a more vulnerable position than her. Cyndi serves as Vice President of the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council. She does it all and makes it look easy!
Find Cyndi on LinkedIn.
Phil Rogan, Chief Technology Officer
Phil is our guide for solving problem for new arrival refugee families using technology. Serving as the Senior Design Lead for Bing at Microsoft, Phil specializes in identifying opportunities, defining challenges and solving them in unique ways. He has several patents in User Interface Design, an Emmy for the Moxi Television Interface in 2004, and lots of experience with lots of devices.
Phil and Miry met in November 2016 through a mutual friend. Phil is currently leading a team of Microsoft developers to create the Miry's List app, which will automate most of the listmaking and list management.
Find Phil on LinkedIn.
Rachel Elder, Secretary and Chief Operating Officer
Rachel is a freelance TV producer and writer, with over 15 years of experience in documentary and reality programming. Originally from the east coast, she currently works and lives with her family in Los Angeles.
Rachel oversees the family lists on the Miry’s List site, and serves as Secretary on the board. She is a productive member of the community and has a passion for connecting people and serving others, often using social media for this purpose.
Rafid Albawi, Director of Operations and Logistics, El Cajon
Rafid makes things happen! Rafid is responsible for distributing supplies to hundreds of families in El Cajon and the surrounding region in east San Diego county (which happens to be the #1 place in the US for Syrian refugee resettlement).
Rafid worked over 15 years in humanitarian assistance with the UN and various American organizations in Iraq and Jordan. He is a natural problem solver with unmatched empathy and resolve to help the people around him. Arriving in the US from Iraq as a refugee himself with his family in September 2016, Rafid immediately sprung into action to help the people around him.
Dan Chang, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer
Dan first got involved with Miry's List when he and his wife, Alex, opened up their home to host a new arrival family of three from Afghanistan. Shortly after, Dan began helping Miry's List with all things finance related and is currently making sure Miry's heart doesn't outspend her head.
Dan has over 10 years experience in health finance and business development, and is currently
a Senior Project Manager for Kaiser Permanente. Dan is also a singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist for the band Hunter Hunted, a Los Angeles based indie pop group who has toured with bands such as Rachel Platten, Twenty One Pilots, Fitz and the Tantrums, Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, Weezer, and FUN. Lastly, Dan is Co-founder and CFO of Electric Flight Crew, a national social fitness group of athletic young professionals, committed to inspiring health, happiness, innovation, and fellowship, built on the foundation of collective fitness.
As a grandson to Chinese refugees, Dan feels a special bond with all of the new arrival families entering the U.S. today and thus believes it is his duty to pay forward the love and privilege he has been given from the hard work and sacrifice of those who came before him.
Find Dan on LinkedIn.
Jade Chien & Yin Zhen, Co-Chief Legal Officers
Ever since Jade and Yin first worked together during the summer of their first year of law school, they had been waiting for the perfect opportunity to join forces again, and, as such, are thrilled to be the legal team at Miry’s List.
Jade and Yin, collectively, have over 20 years experience in the legal industry, including a judicial clerkship and big firm practice. They also, collectively, have over 60 years experience snacking and singing off-key to pop songs.
Rabia Ahmadi, Director of List Operations- Farsi
Rabia oversees communications and listmaking with our Farsi-speaking families, usually from Iran or Afghanistan. Rabia works one-on-one with families and volunteer listmakers to ensure lists are being created and maintained effectively.
Rabia recently moved to the US from Afghanistan with her family which includes two adorable toddlers. In Afghanistan, Rabia worked as a grant writer and programs manager for various American organizations and earned a degree in economics.
Huda Abu Gharbih, Director of List Operations- Arabic
Huda oversees communications and listmaking with our Arabic-speaking families, usually from Syria or Iraq. Huda manages a team of family advocates and works one-on-one with families and volunteer listmakers to ensure lists are being created and maintained effectively.
Huda moved to the US with her three adorable sons from Jordan in 2015 and brings over nine years experience working with the UN to Miry's List, as well as a degree in finance and accounting. Having experienced first-hand the process of immigrating to the United States and starting over, Huda was a natural choice for leading the charge with our Arabic listmakers.
Huda is currently designing a course in empowerment, positivity and self defense that we will provide for new arrival mothers and daughters in 2018.
Renee Brown, Marketing & Social Media Director
Renee came on board to Miry's List after hearing about the New Arrival Supper Club program from a friend. She manages the social media strategy and planning accounts alongside new and emerging marketing platforms and initiatives. If you write to Miry's List on Facebook, it's most likely Renee that you're hearing back from!
Renee's background is in advertising as she was most recently on the agency side. She has 15 years experience in marketing, advertising and promotions, in both traditional and digital platforms, and brings a wealth of knowledge of the industry to Miry's List.
Find Renee on LinkedIn.
Amber Green, Director of Donations
Amber is in charge of collecting donated goods and matching them to our families. She recognizes that every one of our new arrivals has individual wants and needs, and strives to ensure that each piece of furniture, clothing, toy or electronic is of good quality and allows each recipient to feel pride and dignity. She is working on streamlining the donation process and finding more effective solutions to connect new arrival families with our generous donors.
Amber has a background in foreign and national news, having worked as a copy editor for Newsday and the Los Angeles Times. She joined our team shortly after she read a news story on refugees while the Police lyric “Sending Out an S.O.S.” played in the background. She took it as a call to action and now she’s here to answer it.
Alex & Andrew Valdes, Directors of Press & Media
Another dynamic duo taking charge at Miry's List, Alex and Andrew are a husband and wife team responsible for our strategy for engaging with the press, and managing sponsorship and corporate partnerships.
Andrew has nine years of experience in the PR and communications industry and he currently works as an account supervisor at Metro Public Relations, a Beverly Hills-based PR agency. Alex's professional background is in culture and education program management for a Native American-owned cooperative.
Both Alex and Andrew have been involved with Miry's List from the very beginning, donating baby clothes, formula and supplies as their adorable daughter, Simone, outgrew them. They can often be found walking around their alma mater, Occidental College, with baby Simone in her carrier.
Find Andrew on LinkedIn.
Matthew Carlin, Webmaster
Matthew built miryslist.org and is responsible for ongoing maintenance and content updates for the site. He began his career in technology as a writer and digital producer in New York City, where he spent more than 10 years working for various publications and marketing agencies, before moving to Los Angeles and becoming an independent consultant full-time.
He currently focuses on non-profits and social good businesses, creating websites, social media and marketing initiatives for his clients under the moniker Lucky Cat.
Find Matthew on LinkedIn.