Starting New Neighbor Relief
After a few months, the Collins’ son Brad came up with the idea of starting a small non-profit organization that focused on helping refugees in the San Diego area become self-reliant. Dan took the idea to Justin, and after lots of hard work, New Neighbor Relief was born.
“As volunteers for Catholic Charities, we were helping dozens of families from DR Congo and Haiti with their immediate needs, mostly food and clothing,” Dan wrote. “There was a great satisfaction in rendering that help, but over time we saw that refugees needed a lot more than some immediate food and clothing to become self-reliant. As time went on we heard their cries for help to learn English and to get a job, and that’s how we came up the three NNR objectives to help refugees become self-reliant: help them learn English, help them get a job, and help them get a license and car.”
For his day job, Dan is a commercial painting contractor, and he personally hired six men from the DR Congo. “It wasn’t easy in the beginning because of cultural differences, language and communication issues, and transportation issues,” Dan wrote, but he eventually hired six additional refugees.
“It’s been gratifying to see how one young man (Prince) has gone full circle with improving his English, working and saving his money to get a driver's license and buy a truck, and now driving himself to work every day. Not only is he helping with the financial support of his own family, but he is now driving other refugees to work every day and helping them prepare for their driving tests. He has gone from being a recipient of our organization to joining our team and helping other refugees become self-reliant,” Dan wrote.
Prince and two of his co-workers after buying a truck for work
New Neighbor Relief currently has 30 volunteers. Most of the refugees they help are originally from the DR Congo, but many have been in refugee camps in the neighboring countries of Uganda and Tanzania for 15-20 years.
The Collins kids have been very involved in the project, from helping create the business plan and website, picking up and delivering furnishings, assisting with rides, and fixing bikes, to entertaining the younger kids while their parents are involved in discussions, giving up their own clothes and toys at times, and “being flexible when mom or dad says, ‘We just gotta drop off something to the refugees on the way home,’” according to Dan.