"Neighbor to Neighbor was born out of the tender kindness of a child, putting himself in someone else’s shoes."
Neighbor to Neighbor started with a photo in a magazine by Muhammed Muheisen. My (Executive Director Andrea Cramer’s) son, who was four at the time, began asking questions: “What are refugees? How do people become refugees? How can we help?” As a family we began organizing creative, child-directed fundraisers and advocating for State-side refugee resettlement organizations. We also began to see a need for deep-rooted community experiences for refugees and immigrants in the South Bend area. Thus Neighbor to Neighbor was born out of the tender kindness of a child, putting himself in someone else’s shoes.
Our mission is to foster mutual relationships between immigrant newcomers and local community members in order to empower newcomers and engage community members through friendships, education, and advocacy.
Intercultural friendships are the backbone of Neighbor to Neighbor. We build community through the art of neighboring and connecting newcomer immigrants with local community members.
We strive for Friendships that are:
- Hospitable, and
We want to help our newcomer immigrant population navigate the new set of systems that they will encounter from living in the South Bend area. This includes, but is not limited to, knowing about community events, getting a library card, understanding the tax system, writing resumes, seeking sustainable employment, learning English, and feeling comfortable in our collective home.
We also provide education to the local community through onboarding and training volunteers and hosting/promoting events to raise awareness of issues related to immigration.
We strive for Education that is:
- Practical, and
As Neighbor to Neighbor’s history shows, we value the passions and creativity of all—young, old, and everyone in between. We all can be part of the solution, whatever our skills and personalities. Involving everyone, even at a young age, teaches us that we can all be part of the solution, and anyone can join a movement for change.
We strive for Advocacy that is:
- Focused, and
Meet Our Staff
Founder & Executive Director
Andrea Cramer is founder and executive director of Neighbor to Neighbor in South Bend, Indiana. With a background in teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL), she has lived and worked in Illinois, Indiana, Texas, and Michigan, where she taught English as a new language (ENL) at Malcolm X College, McLennan Community College, and in public schools.
Having experienced the gift of welcome across the country, Andrea is passionate about passing on that gift of welcome in South Bend, where she lives with her husband, David, and their two children.
Volunteer & Community Coordinator
Kristin Lawrence is the Volunteer and Community Coordinator for Neighbor to Neighbor. She is passionate about creating spaces and atmospheres where people feel the freedom to be their authentic selves. As a hobby, she enjoys creating beautiful unique rooms for her friends that encourage relaxation, gathering of their favorite people, good conversation and deep connection. What drew her to Neighbor to Neighbor is their emphasis on organic relationships. Through her work connecting volunteers and asylum seekers, she gets to watch friendships bloom as the gift of welcome is given and received. Through living as an expat for nine years in Tunisia, running a business with her husband and five children, she has practical knowledge of what it is like to arrive in a new country, learn a new language, adjust to new ways of doing things, and discover a new version of authentic self through new experiences, growth and change.
With a bachelor’s degree in English from Michigan State University, prior experience working in nonprofits, training as a birth doula and lactation consultant, almost a decade living in North Africa and professional design experience, Kristin brings all of her interests and passions to her work at Neighbor to Neighbor.
Education & Communication Coordinator
Lisa Oglesbee is the Education and Communication Coordinator for Neighbor to Neighbor. She started working with Neighbor to Neighbor as a volunteer in 2021 and loved it so much that she came on board as a staff member in February of 2023 to assist with English support, case management, social media, and data collection. Lisa’s background is in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), having taught for 17 years in academic institutions of higher learning including at Indiana University, Bethel University (IN), and the University of Notre Dame.
Lisa is passionate about language, organizational systems, and connecting with people from other cultures. She has lived in South Bend since 2008 with her husband Eric and two sons and has no current plans to live anywhere else — South Bend is home and she hopes to continue to help make it a home for new neighbors.
Mission Advancement coordinator
Jeremy Wilmot is the Mission Advancement Coordinator for Neighbor to Neighbor. He brings over 5 years of experience working with a non-profit in Costa Rica in administration, donor relations, and fundraising. Jeremy is passionate about serving behind the scenes and supporting his teammates in their roles.
When he is not working, Jeremy enjoys a hot cup of coffee and a board game with his friends. Relationships and friendships are most important to him as he enjoys sharing his time and space and values the impact healthy relationships have on people.
Meet Our Board
Samantha El-Ammori Musleh
Board Member - President
Samantha El-Ammori Musleh is the English as a New Language (ENL) preschool coordinator for the University of Notre Dame’s Robinson Community Learning Center, where she works with families from all over the world who have made South Bend their home. She is a South Bend native and a daughter of Palestinian immigrants. She received her bachelor’s at Indiana University and earned a Child Development Associate (CDA) to further her career in early childhood development. Samantha is a mother of four school-age girls and loves being a “girl mom.” She appreciates nonprofits that assist people who are new to our community, which makes Neighbor to Neighbor near and dear to her heart. Samantha joined the Neighbor to Neighbor board of directors in 2019.
Board Member - Secretary
Board Member - Treasurer
Safija Kovac, a dynamic and accomplished professional, serves as the President of SAFInancial Group Inc. She not only provides financial services to her clients but also offers mentorship in the transportation sector. An engaged and influential figure, she actively contributes to the community as a member of Junior League South Bend.
Prior to her current role, Safija played a pivotal part in the successful launch of a transportation company, demonstrating her leadership and expertise as the HR safety manager. Her academic pursuits led her to earn a Bachelor of Science in Business from Indiana University South Bend.
Hailing from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Safija’s journey to the United States as a refugee in 1995 has profoundly shaped her outlook and instilled in her a deep sense of compassion and commitment to aiding others. This innate desire to serve and uplift her community has been a consistent theme throughout her life, as evidenced by her active participation in organizing events and her dedication to enhancing the lives of those around her.
Board Member - Vice President
Shaban Varajab was born and raised in Kenya. Shaban came to the United States in 2014. He is currently the GEAR UP South Bend Data and Accounting Manager at the South Bend Community School Corporation (SBCSC). Prior to joining SBCSC Shaban worked as an innovation consultant with enFocus, a nonprofit that matches graduates to high-impact projects in the South Bend and Elkhart region. He has also worked with non-profits in Kenya and the Philippines promoting youth and women participation in peacebuilding and economic development initiatives focused on social justice and sustainability. Shaban received his masters of Arts in International Peace Studies from the University of Notre Dame and bachelors of arts in education (Mathematics and Economics) from Moi University, Kenya.
He joined Neighbor to Neighbor in 2022 where he brings his non-profit experience, knowledge and skills in project design, resource mobilization, policy advocacy and organizational management. During his free time Shaban likes watching educational documentaries, playing soccer, reading and traveling.
Khawla Bader Amouri
Board Member Ex Officio
Khawla Bader Amouri is a deputy at the St. Joseph County Assessor Office in South Bend, Indiana. She earned her master of business administration in accounting and finance from Florida Institute of Technology and her bachelor of business administration with a major in economics from the Faculty of Economy at Damascus University. She is a Palestinian native
who served as a credit extension assistant at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) where she participated in multiple research studies on the impact of loan programs on communities living in refugee camps. She has also worked as a senior accountant and provides accounting and financial services for non-profit organizations. She enjoys free time with her family, especially watching her boys play soccer.
Khawla was one of Neighbor to Neighbor’s first board members and we thank her immensely for her service.
Board Member Ex Officio
Joel Boehner is Assistant Director of Exceptional Learners at the South Bend Community School Corporation. Previously he served as executive director at IN*SOURCE and as director of student success and instructor of writing at Bethel University (Indiana). He received his master of library science from Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis and bachelor of arts in history from Bethel University. Joel has been a friend and supporter of
Neighbor to Neighbor since its founding and served as the first board president — we are so thankful for his service. He lives in South Bend with his wife, Anne, and two children. They all regularly enjoy participating in Neighbor to Neighbor events and advocacy
Board Member Ex Officio
Jennifer Huynh is an assistant professor in the Department of American Studies at the University of Notre Dame. She received her doctorate in 2016 from Princeton University in sociology, and her bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley. Jennifer is a first-generation college student who grew up in Southern California’s Little Saigon, and her father was a refugee from Vietnam. She spent part of her education documenting and listening to the stories of Somali refugees in the United Kingdom and Vietnamese Amerasians, the mixed-race children of war in Vietnam and the United States. She resides in the South Bend area with her husband, Anthony, and her young son.
Board Member Ex Officio
Marianne Surges is retired from The Montessori Center, a not for profit school for children 3-6 years old, that she founded in 1982. It was the first Montessori school in our community to offer a full day program designed for children with two parents working outside the home. Marianne moved with her
family to South Bend at the age of nine. After graduating from Adams High School she continued her education at Indiana University Bloomington where she received a bachelor of arts in Sociology. In August of 2021 Marianne discovered Neighbor to Neighbor and the rich work of volunteering and befriending a woman from Rwanda. To be of further service she joined the board of Neighbor to Neighbor in the winter of 2022. Enriching their retirement, Marianne and her husband, Neil Gilbert, make frequent trips to Indianapolis and Asheville to spend time with two adult children, their spouses, and four grandsons. Satisfying a love of France, Italy and adventure they travel each winter to Europe and beyond.