Fund Announces Grants to Support Newly Settled Afghan Refugees in the U.S.
Over the past 10 months, resettlement agencies in the United States have welcomed more than 76,000 Afghan refugees as part of Operation Allies Welcome. As they settle into their new communities and lives here in the U.S., there is a need to ensure their longer-term social and economic inclusion. Refugees need more than a roof over their head to get established – a range of more sustainable supports are required, such as assistance navigating government resources, access to transportation, opportunities to learn English and other skills, help with job placement, and more.
As part of our commitment to the development of communities that are welcoming and inclusive to refugees, the WES Mariam Assefa Fund (the Fund) is excited to award grants totaling $200,000 to four organizations working to support Afghan refugees: Community Services Agency (COMSA) in Green Bay, Wisconsin; Immigrant Advocates Response Collaborative (I-ARC) in upstate New York; Ohlone College in Fremont, California; and TIS Foundation in Washington, D.C.
“We’re proud to provide funding to organizations that are stepping up to support the settlement, inclusion, and long-term success of Afghan refugees. This is key to the Fund’s goal of building more inclusive economies and communities where immigrants and refugees can thrive,” said Lauren Crain, associate director of U.S. programs and strategy at the Fund. “There is no single solution to ensure successful resettlement; it requires efforts from many different stakeholders beyond resettlement agencies – non-profits, schools, employers, and more.”
These organizations are launching programs to aid their new neighbors from Afghanistan, and are leading critical efforts to supplement the work of resettlement agencies.
- COMSA is working to meet the needs of new Afghan arrivals in Wisconsin’s Brown County, part of the Green Bay metropolitan statistical area, where an estimated 1,200 refugees have recently been resettled. With support from the Fund, COMSA is providing wraparound services including transportation and English language training for school-age children, mental health counseling, and culturally responsive childcare.
“Refugees face many challenges – including cultural shock, mental health, and a lack of a social network. Resettling requires resiliency and help from the community to navigate the resources available,” said Said Hassan, executive director of COMSA and a former refugee himself. “Without community support, I couldn’t have settled myself. We are excited to partner with the Fund to meet the needs of Afghan refugees in our community.”
- Ohlone College in Fremont, California — which has one of the largest Afghan communities in the U.S. — is partnering with the Alameda County Workforce Development Board to offer individuals the opportunity to begin careers in the advanced manufacturing industry through a paid apprenticeship and certification. With this new funding, the program will now be open to refugees, including recent arrivals from Afghanistan.
“The Ohlone College Foundation is instrumental in facilitating student refugees’ transition to college life here,” says Eric Bishop, EdD, superintendent and president of Ohlone College. “We are excited to offer another avenue to assist all students who desire satisfying careers.”
- I-ARC is providing critical legal support to Afghan refugees and their employers and creating a cross-border collaborative network of advocates, lawyers, and policy and security experts working in the U.S. and Canadian immigration systems. With the Fund’s support, I-ARC will hire an attorney experienced in both immigration systems to build relationships and foster this cross-border collaborative network, bringing insight to bear on existing and emerging migration-related issues and how to mitigate them. I-ARC’s legal advocacy creates an environment where refugees feel supported and encouraged as they resettle, find employment, and rebuild their lives.
“Support from the Fund will allow us to continue ensuring that New York remains a welcoming place for all Afghans seeking a new life here,” said Camille Mackler, executive director of I-ARC. “We know all too well that our state will only be made stronger and richer by their decision to resettle here, and we look forward to bringing all New Yorkers together to say welcome home.”
- TIS Foundation will break down barriers to Afghan refugees’ success through its Afghans Learning to Lead and Innovate as Entrepreneurs Strategy (ALLIES) program. ALLIES seeks to fill gaps in government support and provide long-term assistance, advocacy, and wraparound services to new arrivals from Afghanistan in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area as they seek and start new jobs.
“TIS Foundation is excited to support the resettlement of Afghan asylees in the National Capital Region by creating dedicated pathways towards long-term social stability and financial prosperity,” said Ogay Irono, president of the TIS Foundation. “Our commitment to America’s next great community is simple – you were there to support us, so now we are here to support you every day and every step of the way to an empowered future.”
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