After nearly two decades, the Pennsylvania Immigrant & Refugee Women’s Network (PAIRWN) has finally found a place to call its own.
With the help of a grant from the federal Office of Violence Against Women, the organization celebrated the grand opening of its new office space on Front Street this afternoon. Previously, members operated from wherever they could find space–homes, community centers, coffee shops, etc.
“I am so happy that I can be a voice for the immigrant and refugee community, especially the women because they have no voice,” said Ho-Thanh Nguyen, founder of PAIRWN. “I didn’t have a voice before, and this gives me the platform to work and to help.”
PAIRWN was created in May 2001 by Nguyen and nine other women who wanted to advocate for and educate women who recently arrived in United States, helping them gain life and work skills.
The organization specializes in finding and developing resources for immigrant and refugee women. Some of their services include life coaching, networking, referrals and resources for stalking, domestic violence and sexual assault survivors. They also hold meetups, during which women in the network share personal stories of survival, do arts and crafts, share the skills that they have learned and more.
“The resources that we offer the women is to educate them [on] what is out there, help them empower themselves and to have a voice,” Nguyen said.
In 1975, Nguyen came to Pennsylvania as a Vietnamese refugee herself. She learned the ropes of the new culture and worked her way up through the community. Now, she says, she wants to offer new immigrants and refugees that support.
“I learned so much and everything is in my brain, and now I want to pass it on—pay it forward,” she said. “I want to give back to the community that I have been living in, to help the new immigrant and refugee woman who come here.”
The organization has a multitude of partners including YWCA, Women of Color Network, the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR), the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) and others. According to Nguyen, these partners are pieces of a puzzle that helped create PAIRWN.
“Everybody says that I did all this—no, I did not do all this,” she said. “I’m just planting the seed. I plant the seed, and the community helps me water them and to grow.”
With their new office space, the organization is working on increasing its life coaching, continuing their empowerment and story circles, and of course, advocating for immigrant and refugee women, she said.
“This is their home now,” Nguyen said. “As you look around and see all the different pictures of women there, their pictures hanging in there, some of them are still alive, some of them already gone, but they’re here in the spirit with us and I love them. I love them.”