The Newcomer Network at Catholic Charities

Grantee Story

Deciding to emigrate to a new country is a life-changing and difficult choice for any family—doing it, however, is harder still. Amelia*, an asylum-seeker and mother of two from Honduras, knows this firsthand.  

Amelia’s fraught journey would have been even harder if it were not for Catholic Charities DC’s Newcomer Network. The network supports the Washington, DC region’s growing immigrant population—of which 40% reside in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties—by assisting them with legal services and connecting them to comprehensive support through holistic case management. By leveraging Catholic Charities’ network of parishes and community partners, and by utilizing Newcomer Navigators to work with individuals who need more support, the Newcomer Network addresses the specific needs of the region’s immigrant community. 

“Our mission is giving help that empowers and hope that lasts,” Sister Sharlet Ann Wagner, the Newcomer Network’s Executive Director, told the Catholic Charities at Work podcast. “Ultimately, we’re helping immigrants connect to and build stable lives in their new communities.” 

The Newcomer Network itself is new to town, having launched in 2020 with a multi-year investment from the A. James & Alice B. Clark Foundation. Amelia was the Newcomer Network’s very first client. One core pillar of the Clark Foundation’s mission is to provide members of the DC community the best opportunity to thrive.  

Amelia’s first priority was gaining legal representation in the United States. Catholic Charities DC’s pro bono legal team worked with Amelia to establish her asylum status with federal immigration authorities. However, it became apparent that for Amelia and her family to live a stable life, she would need more than legal support. 

Amelia and her children were living in a single room in an overcrowded apartment. With guidance from her Navigator and funding for a security deposit from the Newcomer Network, Amelia found an apartment and negotiated the monthly rent. She chose the home she thought would suit her family’s need for safety and privacy. Amelia’s resourcefulness led her to find a truck to move donated furniture from Silver Spring to her new apartment in Prince George’s County. Through her dedication and self-motivation, she studied hard to earn her learner’s permit despite her busy schedule with work and caring for her children’s needs. 

When one of her children fell ill, Amelia was proactive and took her child to a local health care center. She later gathered the documents required to enroll the family in Maryland Health Connection with the support of her Navigator. The Newcomer Network team also helped Amelia apply for and receive an outside grant, which covered some lost income due to the work she missed while caring for her child. 

“Amelia is a strong woman and a role model mother,” said Jenny Cachaya, Navigator Manager for the Newcomer Network. “She is dedicated to her children. All of her efforts are driven by her desire to provide them with the life that she was not able to have in her home country so they can thrive together as a family in the U.S.”  

*Amelia’s name has been changed to maintain confidentiality.