Organizations prepare to welcome Afghan evacuees
Eva Hassett, executive director, International Institute of Buffalo, introduces members of the Western New York Refugee and Asylee Consortium, who will work to welcome and resettle Afghan evacuees. (Photo by Patrick J. Buechi)
An influx of 50,000 Afghan evacuees are expected to be coming into the United States over the next six months. About 350 will be welcomed into Western New York by five local organizations that comprise the Western New York Refugee and Asylee Consortium. WNYRAC will work to resettle the incoming Afghan evacuees and provide housing, medical and case management, and other needs.
Catholic Charities, the International Institute, Journey’s End, and Jewish Family Services, along with Jericho Road Community Health Center and the local Afghan community announced Sept. 2 that they will collaborate on Buffalo United for Afghan Evacuees, a community campaign to help provide critical support the people who have left Afghanistan to settle in Western New York. They are seeking help from the larger community as well.
“Buffalo is famous for being the City of Good Neighbors and full of Buffalove, a city where we help each other in times of need, and not only in a snowstorm. We see it again and again. It’s one of the reasons I live here,” said Eva Hassett, executive director of the International Institute of Buffalo. “We know immigrants have a positive impact on Buffalo. We are growing here again because of immigrants. Please, let’s help these families feel our love and support as they make the transition to Western New York.”
Molly S. Carr, Ph.D., CEO of Jewish Family Services of Western New York, asked for help from the public, stating that these evacuees will need more than basic food and shelter to thrive. The Jewish Family Services will offer trauma services and legal services.
“Our team of colleagues on the ground in the different bases where they are receiving Afghans have two words to describe what they are seeing: shell shock. People coming to us, they are going to need more than just the basics. They are going to need care – trauma care, mental health services, physical health services. But knowing that Buffalo, this community, will be there to support them, will help us to provide these core essential services to them when they arrive,” Carr said.
These evacuees are different from typical refugees they help resettle. They do not have the same access to the same services, benefits, and path towards citizenship as refugees.
“Because of this, we will have to do a lot of advocacy with the federal government in terms of allowing these (people) to access the benefits and services, as well as continue to count on the Western New York community to be welcoming in coming together to support our newest neighbors,” explained Karen Andolina Scott, executive director of Journey’s End Refugee Services.
Catholic Charities has been resettling immigrants and refugees in Western New York for almost all of its 100-year existence. They will help by doing what they do best, helping with the essentials.
“In the beginning we are going to focus on food because we have the unique position of operating food pantries and we have a direct connection to Feed More Western New York, and an expertise in that area,” said Deacon Steve Schumer, president and CEO of Catholic Charities of Buffalo. “So, that will be a primary focus of ours, but we also treat people for trauma, provide behavioral health, of course housing and education, and the case management work that all folks need. Not only refugees and immigrants, but native-born folks as well. This is a wonderful opportunity to put our best foot forward and bring to bear all to resources that we offer to Western New York. It’s very exciting.”
Volunteer and donation opportunities are available at http://www.wnyrac.org.