Unity starts with u and i

Our Mission


Village to Village United (V2V) is a local response to the global refugee crisis. We bring  together teens living in the South Orange/ Maplewood NJ area with recently arrived Syrian and Iraqi teens from Elizabeth and Roselle, NJ for year-round events that foster friendships and cultural exchange.


Teens from recently-arrived refugee families struggle with learning a new language and adapting to cultural differences. Their families face economic hurdles that make attending camp or other paid summer programs impossible. V2V seeks to fill that gap through programming that fosters respect of oneself and one another, and cross-cultural understanding.


Our Team

V2V grew out of discussions between SOMA parents and a refugee outreach coordinator based in Elizabeth, who identified a need for summer programming for recently arrived teens.  Together we launched a program of collaborative art activities and field trips that focused on music, art, and nature. 

Meet Our Committee

Lisa Basile is an ESL teacher at Bloomfield High School and an artist.  She has worked as a textile designer and continues to create non-traditional quilts.

Ellen Dreyer is an author, editor, and writing teacher.

Meg Engelhard works with Children's Literacy Initiative, supporting teachers to effectively meet the needs of all their students.

Samar Hussaini is an Arab-American award winning designer and fine artist who exhibits her work in local, national, and international galleries.

Ellen Kahaner is a writer and retired elementary school Reading Specialist who now teaches adult literacy and coaches elementary school teachers in Elizabeth.

Julie Kelman is an ESL teacher who has worked with students from all over the world.

Ina Rimpau hails from Montreal, Canada, and has been a Maplewood resident for 18 years. She would like to put a book into the hands of every man, woman, and child.

Sheila Shidnia is an Iranian-American musician and (soon-to-be) music therapist, with over 10 years of leadership experience building integrated marketing strategies in the art and education sectors.

Emily Witkowski is the teen librarian at the Maplewood Memorial Library and Hilton Branch Library.