by Lauren Solidum
“Thank you for all of your efforts to protect me and my family.”
These words of gratitude came from an Afghan man, who left Kabul as the Taliban began its violent takeover. He is one of the 231 Afghan refugees who Catholic Charities has had the privilege to welcome since the Afghanistan humanitarian crisis began.
Many of the refugees resettled by Catholic Charities spend years — even decades — in a refugee camp before coming to the United States. For our brothers and sisters in Afghanistan, they had to flee suddenly, their trauma is recent and many are mourning the loss of family and friends left behind.
Most Afghan evacuees have only been permitted temporary status in the United States. This allows them two years to remain in the country before needing to adjust to a more permanent status. In an effort to stabilize these families and support them in finding their pathway to permanent status, our La Luz Immigration Clinic has been hosting a monthly Afghan Asylum Legal Clinic.
The response from legal professionals in the community willing to volunteer has been overwhelmingly positive. One volunteer shared, “Helping someone who needs to be here, stay here,” was her favorite part of the experience.
Initially, Catholic Charities was asked to support resettling 75 Afghans. Almost immediately, we had to adjust that number and our staffing, because of the growing need. Our greatest challenge was locating long-term housing for these Afghan families.
By the grace of God and with the generous support from the community, we were able to house all of them. Transportation remains one of our biggest difficulties. We need volunteers who are willing to drive refugees to a variety of appointments and to places like our TurnStyles thrift stores for clothing, shoes and other basic necessities to meet the needs of their families.
The outpouring of support from our parishes and other community groups since the onset of this humanitarian crisis has left all of us at Catholic Charities feeling joyful and hopeful. There have been offers of temporary housing and furniture drives. One family volunteered to cook basic Afghan meals after hearing that refugees often miss the familiar food and spices from their former homeland.
The kindness of strangers has not gone unnoticed. “Seeing the sense of cooperation of kind people like you with immigrants, I forget the problems,” said one of the Afghans. “I wish to publish a book from my collection of notes one day to tell the children and future generations of America that you are the offspring of great and kind human beings of whom human society and refugees are proud.”
We do not yet know how Catholic Charities will be called upon as the U.S. prepares to accept those fleeing from the Russian invasion of Ukraine. What we do know, is this verse from the Letter to the Romans will continue to be our guide: “Welcome one another, then, as Christ welcomed you, for the glory of God” (15:7).
For more about our humanitarian efforts, go online to: https://catholiccharitiesks.org/humanitarian-and-refugee-aid.