Resettlement effort for Afghan refugees with the help of local organizations
Eevacuees from Afghanistan began arriving at Fort McCoy in Monroe County in late August, with a total of around 13,000 by early October.
Several organizations in the Milwaukee area have helped channel donations to the military base and are preparing to help with the refugee resettlement process.
The Milwaukee chapter of the Hanan Refugee Relief Group is one of them. In recent years, before thousands of Afghans arrived in Wisconsin this summer, the group assisted in the resettlement of some 20 Afghan refugees in the Milwaukee area. When he learned that a large group would be arriving in Wisconsin, HRRG launched a large-scale donation campaign to provide needed items at Fort McCoy.
“A lot of them came with just the shirts on their backs, they came with open sandals. Thus, we were able to supply, in large quantities, winter jackets, shoes, culturally appropriate clothing, prayer bars, ”said Sheila Badwan, HRRG Milwaukee section chief.
Special emphasis is placed on ensuring that the children – who make up just under half of the military base group – have the items they need, Badwan said.
While their focus is on short-term donations, the group is also preparing for the eventual resettlement effort. Over the next few months, Afghan refugees are expected to be put in touch with nonprofits across the country that will help them find housing and employment. HRRG is preparing to help organizations find furniture and household items for those moving to Wisconsin. In total, around 400 refugees are expected to be placed in the state.
Badwan noted that federal refugee benefits are limited in duration and amount, and that many refugees come to the United States with very few assets initially.
“It’s really hard, especially for single mothers, to adjust during this (benefit) period,” she said, noting that refugees are supposed to find jobs, learn English s ‘they don’t already know the language and adapt to the culture in a matter of months.
HRRG is preparing to offer English as a Second Language (ESL) courses to Afghan refugees, as it has done in the past to Syrian refugees, among other services.
“We do a lot of relief efforts throughout the year, such as emergency rents, emergency food boxes – during the pandemic, that’s really what we focused on,” Badwan said. “… Sometimes people don’t really realize what is not covered by normal government assistance. Families cannot get diapers, it is not covered by food stamps. Sometimes people don’t realize that there are people who are really struggling. And the language barrier is very important for these families if they don’t know the language.
Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan, based in West Allis, are also preparing to help with resettlement efforts.
Its refugee resettlement team was already preparing to triple the number of people it serves this year compared to last year, following President Joe Biden’s raising of the LSS refugee admissions ceiling in the United States. budgeted to help 300 refugees this year, up from 100 last year, according to Hector Colón, president and CEO of LSS Wisconsin and Upper Michigan.
“On top of that, we have this emergency with Afghans, and we have raised our hands so that we can serve them,” he said.
LSS aims to raise an additional $ 500,000 to fund the resettlement of 100 Afghans in the region, which would cover the cost of housing assistance, food, clothing and basic needs for several months. Colón said LSS aims to find permanent housing for individuals as quickly as possible, usually within 90 days.
“LSS is truly honored and privileged to… serve these people fleeing war and persecution,” Colón said. “It’s also very inspiring to see how quickly these people are integrating into our society. “
In their typical day-to-day work, Milwaukee-based online fashion retailer Wantable Inc. focuses on selecting trendy clothes, using technology, and sending items for customers to try on. at home.
But during times of crisis over the past two years, the company has stepped out of its normal routine and stepped up to help those in need. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Wantable leveraged its logistics and fulfillment operations to connect home sewing volunteers with the rising demand for face masks. Throughout this summer and fall, the company has used its surplus new clothing to donate to Fort McCoy.
Abigail Gilman, brand communications manager for Wantable, had previously worked with HRRG to help Syrian refugees during their resettlement a few years ago. When she heard that Afghan evacuees were arriving at the base in Wisconsin, she and her colleagues asked how they could help.
Wanted employees and representatives from HRRG and the Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition have teamed up to sift through the company’s inventory to find the most suitable items for the women and men of Fort McCoy, including sweaters, pants. , dresses and jackets. About thirty employees took part in the sorting effort.
“The connections (with HRRG and MMWC) have been very helpful,” said Gilman, noting that the relief group transported the donations from Milwaukee to a drop-off point in Sparta. “They have access and knowledge of the different elements that are needed. So they were able to help facilitate that.
The rest of the clothes were donated to Meta House, a Milwaukee-based nonprofit that helps recovering women.
To date, the company has donated seven pallets of clothing to Afghan refugees.
Gilman said one of the perks of working at a startup is the ability to respond with agility when needs arise in the community. After the idea was first floated, Wantable CEO and founder Jalem Getz immediately signed on, and the volunteers started sorting the clothes within days, she said.
“Everyone is investing in making an impact on our local community and, with our clients being across the country, making an impact on those communities as well,” said Gilman.
Individuals and businesses can help with the relocation effort by purchasing items from HRRG’s Amazon Wish List, making a financial donation to the LSS Campaign, or registering as a volunteer with HRRG or LSS. to help families when they arrive in the community.
“It really takes a village and the support of the community makes a difference,” Badwan said.