A brief overview
Afghan Refugee Project
As of December 07, 2021, approximately 34,000 Afghan Evacuees are still living on seven military bases in the United States. This number is down from 53,150 Afghans living on eight installations at the end of October 2021. All Afghan Refugees to transition off all bases by mid-February 2022.
Lutheran Family Services is expected to resettle around 800-1000 individual Afghan Refugees in the Omaha and Lincoln area in 2022. Several families have already arrived and are in temporary housing here in Omaha. The size of the Afghan families being settled here is between 1-12 people: with the average size of the Afghan families being 6. The biggest challenge Lutheran Family Services is finding long-term affordable housing.
The main goal of Lutheran Family Services and its cosponsors is to make the refugees self-reliant within 3 to 6 months. This essentially means they must have permanent housing, get a paying job, know how to shop for necessities, and understand how to get around town.
Afghan refugees arrive in the United States with very few possessions. The work of cosponsors requires us to act as guides, friends, and advocates for the family.
As guides we will supply furniture and household goods plus food. In addition, we will do all we can to acquaint them with important aspects of American life and culture.
As friends we will offer emotional support and encouragement as the family adjusts to America. In doing so we will share in their cultural heritage and honor their customs and traditions.
Finally, as advocates, we will help in ensuring they are not exploited, discriminated against, or taken advantage of. We will encourage and help them connect with other refugees for mutual support and network with other groups to foster multicultural communications and understanding.
To achieve these goals various steps must be taken and volunteers are needed.
Co-sponsors are responsible for furnishing the apartment or house that Lutheran Family Services has obtained for the family. Lutheran Family Services pays the rent for the housing but counts on the cosponsors to provide all the things necessary to make it a home. On the Afghan Refugee Project web page, we have listed Items Needed to Set Up a Refugee Household. In Quick and Easy Donations, several ways to donate are listed: donating money, gift cards, new or gently used furniture and household items. The Drop In Volunteer Opportunities section lists several ways you may help: with shopping, gathering household goods, in setting up the Family’s new home when housing becomes available.
Friendship and advocacy for the family begin from the very first day they are met by the cosponsors. After the family has settled into temporary housing or their permanent home, weekly meetings with the family will be arranged. These meetings will essentially be mentoring meetings that may include helping with English language learning, explaining how things work in their new home, city and country, the family find employment, helping enroll the children in school, learning how to navigate public transportation or driving family members to various places – grocery stores, medical appointments, work, etc.
Lutheran Family Services provides training for these volunteer mentors. They also support volunteer mentors through referral services for the family, English language classes, along with help finding employment. The mentoring group is a small group of volunteers who must commit to working with the refugee family for at least 3- 6 months if not longer. Mentors usually become very close to the family and quickly become friends.
We are excited about this project and look forward to working with both First & Second Church members. Spread the word to friends and families as they might have gently used furniture or household goods, they would be willing to donate.
We hope this overview has been informative and has helped you better understand the joint Afghan Refugee Project. For updates on the project or if you wish volunteer or to make a donation, please visit the Afghan Refugee Project web page at https://www.firstuuomaha.org/afghanrefugeeproject or www.2uuomaha.org.
If you have any questions, please email the leadership team at AfghanRefugeeProject@firstuuomaha.org.
We hope this brief overview has been informative and has helped you better understand what our commitment will be to our refugee family.
John Mangini & Barb Herring, JoAnne Draper & Michaela Weiss,
1st Unitarian Church of Omaha 2nd Unitarian Church of Omaha