'I want people to remember that any one of us could be one of those Afghan families who are arriving here now after escaping trauma and danger.'
Media coverage of the crisis in Afghanistan compels our attention and stirs our compassion. Each day, we hear more about the tens of thousands of Afghan families and individuals who are arriving in the United States, fleeing unimaginable danger in their homeland. Catholic Charities of Boston (CCAB) will support the transition of over 100 of our newest neighbors by leading the effort to welcome and resettle our Afghan brothers and sisters to Greater Boston. Many will arrive with no possessions and need support building a new life here in Massachusetts.
CCAB is honored to partner with Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP) and Jewish Council on Community Relations in an effort to raise the funds and community support necessary to welcome and resettle these new community members.
CCAB staff members are working around the clock to find affordable transitional and permanent housing for these individuals and families, the majority of whom are expected to arrive in Greater Boston beginning in October and throughout the fall, likely on very short notice. Marjean Perhot, vice president of CCAB's Refugee and Immigrant Services division, shares that setting up housing with basic furnishings and other essentials is of the highest priority right now so that the Afghanis will have a place to go upon their arrival here.
CCAB invites community groups to join our efforts and become a Partners Organized to Welcome Immigrants and Refugees (POWIR) site. POWIR sites consist of groups from churches, synagogues, mosques, or other communities who will join together to sponsor a family for up to one year. Perhot explains that community sponsors become a vital lifeline for the refugee family by ensuring that they have housing, food, basic necessities, and access to other essential services. Groups work alongside CCAB to provide the core services that these families need to get settled here in the U.S. CCAB relies on relationships with POWIR sites to help with refugees' and immigrants' long-term integration and independence in our communities.
Perhot further explains that one of the biggest challenges facing this particular population of Afghan parolees is that they are ineligible for any public living assistance. In order to provide these new community members with the essential living expenses and food that they will need, she encourages those who are able to consider making a gift to CCAB's Afghan Resettlement Fund. A full 100 percent of the proceeds will provide direct support to the Afghan families in Greater Boston. Donations of grocery store gift cards, new daily essentials and household fundamentals are also highly sought after as the team prepares to welcome many new community members.
Perhot shares, "I want people to remember that any one of us could be one of those Afghan families who are arriving here now after escaping trauma and danger. Many of us are blessed with what we're given, and the opportunity to give back will make a huge difference in the lives of so many. We are going to need more support long-term for these families so that they can fully rebuild their lives."
She further explains the emotions that refugees face upon arriving in the U.S and the power of being able to give back.
"When CCAB members first meet a refugee family at Logan Airport, the family is tired, hungry, and afraid. They don't know who we are and are entering an entirely new environment, having overcome great challenges and suffering, while needing to put their complete trust in strangers in a foreign land to help them. Although afraid, they arrive hopeful that this is the last leg of a long journey and are grateful to CCAB and the United States for helping them get back on their feet," she says.
She continues, "We are given a huge gift and responsibility to welcome our new community members, and it's an extremely powerful moment, realizing the ability that you have to help someone feel comforted in a moment of great fear and uncertainty; to help our new neighbors know that someone is there to support them as they put down new roots."
If you are interested in learning more about supporting CCAB's Afghan Resettlement efforts, please visit www.ccab.org/afghanistan or email Info@ccab.org.
JACQUELINE CUNNIFF IS MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER OF CATHOLIC CHARITIES OF BOSTON.