S.E. Portland among Oregon locations welcoming Afghan refugees
The chaotic August airlift exit of Americans, and Afghan citizens who worked with the U.S., has left many Afghan families destitute and traumatized.
One of several nonprofit organizations helping these families to restart their lives in Portland is Lutheran Community Services.
The Southeast Portland Rotary Club's weekly Monday noon meetings often have presenters addressing timely topics; and, in November, one such talk was by Lisa Danlli, of the Refugee Community Services Program Director at Lutheran Community Services.
In a 40-minute virtual talk to the club using ZOOM, she shared information about what the organization is doing, and how people in Portland can help. Danlli informed the Rotary group that Lutheran Community Services is scheduled to welcome 180 Afghans into Portland before the end of 2021. Approximately 60% of those are children under twelve years of age. Some families have six or seven children, and finding long-term affordable housing for large families has proven very challenging.
Because many of these families left Afghanistan with none of their possessions, one Rotary meeting attendee disclosed that Catholic Charities is organizing Portlanders to donate "restart kits" for Afghan families. The categories of these kits are: Personal care; welcome; kitchen; baby; bedding; bathroom; and cleaning. The kits, in portable plastic tubs, are taken to the Refugee Care Collective in Tigard for distribution.
The Afghans entering Portland are varied in their English language capabilities. Those who enter with SIVs ("Special Immigrant Visas") have worked with the U.S. Government while in Afghanistan, or were interpreters â€“ and they, who are most often men, usually do not need language services. When Rotary member Judy Tester asked if there are English classes for the refugees, Danlli said that they, along with their nonprofit partners, do provide ESL classes.
Together, the participating organizations â€“ Lutheran Community Services, IRCO (Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization), Catholic Charities, the Refugee Care Collective, and EMO's (Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon) program "SOAR" (Sponsors Organized to Assist Refugees) are doing all they can to provide support. But decreased staff and funding during the pandemic, and the growing numbers of refugees, create larger challenges.
The Oregon Department of Human Services' Emergency Management program, which provides shelter and food for Oregon wildfire victims, is also providing temporary housing and access to food for Afghan families as they arrive to Oregon. And resettlement agencies continue seek permanent housing options.
To find out how to help, or to make a monetary donation, contact Lutheran Community Services at 503/231-7480. More information is online â€“ lcsnw.org/office/portland
And, for more information on those restart kits â€“ refugeecarecollective.org/restart-kits
Moreland Presbyterian Church commits to sponsor an Afghan family
By REBECCA MOWESpecial to THE BEE
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