How Pittsburghers Can Help Afghan Refugees Arriving in the Community | News | Pittsburgh

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Photo: Courtesy of Hello Neighbor

Two Afghan men smile and share food at a recent Hello Neighbor Afghan community gathering.

The American presence in the Afghan war ended on August 15, after nearly 20 years. As the Taliban took control of a growing number of cities and provinces, evacuations of Afghan civilians and those who assisted the United States during the war began.

Now Afghan refugees are arriving in Pittsburgh. Organizations such as Hello Neighbor and Jewish Family and Community Services are leading the way in supporting their transition to a new community and new life, and they invite the people of Pittsburgher to help them.

“The first thing we can do as Pittsburghers is to practice kindness and empathy, and think about how we would like to be treated if our lives were turned upside down if we had to flee our homes, never to come back, and how we would like to be treated, ”said Sloane Davidson, Founder and CEO of Hello Neighbor.

Hello Neighbor was founded four and a half years ago and has helped guide and support refugees as they relocate to the Pittsburgh community through programs such as family mentoring, study buddies for students and a smart starter program for pregnant women and those with newborn babies. . Hello Neighbor also gives refugee women the opportunity to earn extra money through food programs, and she offers refugees direct cash assistance through her Refugee Assistance Fund.

The organization is currently asking people to contribute to several Amazon and Walmart wish lists, where people can purchase items to help refugees with essentials such as diapers, menstrual products and clothing.

Cody Houser, a road construction inspector for the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and his wife bought diapers and other smaller items from Hello Neighbor’s wishlist, but they wanted to help even more.

Houser began a fundraiser via social media on August 29, encouraging people to donate so Houser could purchase some of the bigger wishlist items, such as a crib, backpack, and a rocking chair. In 24 hours, he had raised over $ 1,000 and, by August 31, just over $ 1,800.

“My wife, This, and I have been blessed with great jobs, great friends, and an incredibly supportive family. We currently have a 2 year old daughter and are expecting baby number two early next year, and we couldn’t imagine trying to do all of this on our own, in a new city, in a new country and with almost nothing in our names, ”says Houser. “I’ve always liked the saying, ‘If I’m luckier than the rest, I have to build a longer table, not a taller fence.

JFCS’s Refugee and Immigrant Services Program also supports refugees by helping them find housing and work, as well as connecting them with services. They have programs for in-home mentors, after school and cultural counseling, and they also organize family events and provide date partners to help refugees get to and from their appointments. .

JFCS has already welcomed three Afghan families to Pittsburgh and is preparing to welcome more. They are working with Acculturation for Justice, Access and Peace (AJAPO) and 10 other organizations to address growing needs both immediate and long term. Pittsburgh is one of 19 cities chosen across America as host communities to house Afghan families who have arrived due to the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.

JFCS also has a active fundraising which covers living expenses and essential expenses, and people can also make in-kind donations of items such as school and household supplies, toiletries, etc.

“Refugee resettlement is a community process and we believe we need to work together to ensure these families can make Pittsburgh their home,” said Ivonne Smith-Tapia, Director of Refugee and Immigrant Services at JFCS. “JFCS takes a community approach, working with community organizations to meet the needs of each family. ”

JFCS and Hello Neighbor stress that refugee resettlement takes time and many of the Afghans who will arrive are not yet there. Davidson thinks the most important thing to remember is that many Afghan refugees will not arrive today or tomorrow, but rather months or years from now. In the meantime, and once new refugees arrive, people can donate to fundraisers, purchase items on wish lists, and sign up to volunteer with Hello Neighbor, JFCS and other organizations. who help refugees.

“Supporting the plight of refugees is something the people of Pittsburgher have always done and always will do. We are a community, ”Davidson says. “And Afghans are not new to Pittsburgh, they are our current neighbors, they live among us and now work alongside us to send their children to school here. They are our neighbors.

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