Providence increases impact to help Afghan refugees

[5 MIN READ]

In this article:

  • As part of Providence's commitment to serving all, especially the most vulnerable, the Community Partnerships division - including Community Health Investment (CHI), the St. Joseph Community Partnerships Fund (SJCPF), and Global and Domestic Engagement (GDE) - invests in organizations in several states who are helping refugees from Afghanistan rebuild their lives in the United States.

  • Each organization supports Afghan refugees in different ways, providing legal support, housing, education and living supplies.

  • By supporting these efforts in places where Providence operates, we are making a difference in the communities we serve.

At Providence, our Community Partnerships division stands in solidarity with those suffering and in need – including refugees fleeing persecution and war, seeking refuge in the United States.

Imagine: One day you’re living a normal life with your family. The next, you’re forbidden to work. You can’t access any money in your bank account. You’re afraid to go outside because you’re worried the Taliban – the group that’s now taken charge of your government – will hurt you or your family.

So, you must make the difficult decision: Stay and risk your safety. Or leave everything behind in search of a better life.

For many families in Afghanistan, this became the reality in August 2021. The United States finished withdrawing its military from Afghanistan and the Taliban took over the government. Hundreds of thousands of Afghans have left their country since.

While the United States government offers some support to Afghans fleeing their country, to fully help people who have left everything behind requires strong community support, plus a range of resources.

Through Integrated Community Investment, which includes Community Health Investment (CHI) and the St. Joseph Community Partnership Fund (SJCPF), and the partnerships established by the Global and Domestic Engagement (GDE) team, Providence funds and works closely with community groups that provide essential support to Afghan refugees. Uniting these services across states, we amplify our overall impact. By investing in community leaders and their efforts to help Afghan refugees, we can build a stronger, more equitable future for all.

SJCPF: Making a difference across our footprint

It is estimated that 52,000 refugees from Afghanistan will settle in the US. True to our mission, the SJCPF team has developed a strategy to provide support for refugee resettlement and aid that aligns with the Fund’s Disaster Response, Recovery, and Resilience focus area. This includes addressing the needs of organizations such as resettlement and local support agencies responding to the current Afghan refugee crisis.

The Fund is planning to support Afghan refugee efforts in multiple phases. In Phase One, the Fund will focus on the immediate needs of existing partners both in our regions and throughout the country. A more comprehensive strategy is currently in development that encompasses organizational capacity and advocacy for Phase Two, beginning in 2022.

SJCPF will also provide $300,000 of funding to World Relief and Catholic Charities USA to support resettlement efforts throughout the country, including Providence regions, and to other organizations supporting the resettlement of Afghans in Providence St. Joseph Health regions.

Our funding currently supports organizations helping with a wide range of needs for Afghans looking to resettle in the United States.

Access California Services assists with refugee resettlement

A big part of refugee support involves helping families as they resettle in a new community. We’ve provided funding to Access California Services (AccessCal for short). They have a program that offers cash assistance to help Afghan refugees resettle in Orange County, find employment, and learn English. Their teams help create a space of belonging – their many services are culturally sensitive and respond to different language needs.  

In Oregon, Catholic Charities of Oregon provides wrap-around services

Other key parts of refugee resettlement in the United States are legal status and integration.

The majority of Afghan refugees are in the United States as “humanitarian parolees” instead of having formal refugee status. The humanitarian parolee status allows people to enter the United States legally and quickly. They can stay for two years under this status. Other types of visas or refugee status can take years to complete.

The humanitarian parolee status, while a fast way to enter the country, has a few challenges; it costs $575 per person, and aside from a one-time $1,250 stipend from the government, there is no other federal government support after their first 90 days.

In Oregon, they are expecting at least 180 Afghan refugees in the next few months. Catholic Charities of Oregon is responding by offering resettlement, case management, and legal services to individuals and families. They provide services from meeting the families at the airport to helping furnish their new homes, in addition to other culturally sensitive and trauma-informed support.   

The Refugee Artisan Initiative brings work training to Afghans in Seattle

Not only do refugees need access to housing, health care, and education, but they also need work. The Refugee Artisan Initiative (RAI) partners with refugee and immigrant women in the Pacific Northwest to train them in artisan skills and micro-business development. These skills help women transition to the United States and make a living.

Recently, with support from Providence, RAI created an eight-week course to train six women in making medical scrubs. With their training, the women took measurements, added personalized details, and made several sets of custom scrubs for healthcare workers at Swedish Medical Center. It was a win-win – healthcare workers got new scrubs and new refugees received job training and a living wage.

Community resources and operations help refugees in Montana

Other funding for Soft Landing Missoula is helping support 74 Afghan adults and children resettling in Montana. Soft Landing Missoula works to engage and support their community in welcoming refugees and immigrants.

Our funding supports the Community Resource Center and Family Resource Coordinator. This initiative provides a safe and welcoming gathering place for refugees and the existing community. The Community Resource Center offers:

·       A resource board that connects refugees with the community

·       A space for volunteer recruitment, management, and training

·       A food pantry with extra food supplies

·       A dedicated staff person to get refugee families the support they need

World Relief in Spokane gives supplies to new arrivals

In Washington, World Relief Spokane partners with local churches and volunteers to help newly arrived families settle in their new homes. The organization is securing housing, supplying necessities, and enrolling children in school for 300 Afghan families.

We have provided funding to help get families living support, including furniture, clothing, and other basic materials.

Encouraging our caregivers to give back

Through the GDE team, Providence caregivers can find local and virtual volunteer opportunities through the newly launched Action Hub. Seeing the immense, immediate needs of Afghan refugees across our footprint, the team organized different opportunities for caregivers to help, including coordinating airport pickups, apartment set-ups, and meal deliveries through Lutheran Immigrant Services and a multitude of both in-person and virtual opportunities through the International Rescue Committee.

In addition, in December, the CHI team is partnering with GDE on a caregiver donations drive through the Action Hub to collect household goods and furniture for refugee families in the greater Portland area.

Partnering to create new opportunities at Providence

Providence is working closely with the Catholic Charities Family Navigators to identify potential employment opportunities for refugees to join Providence as caregivers. This includes the creation of dedicated talent acquisition avenues that match each individual’s skills and experience with specific Providence vacancies.

Working together amplifies our impact

With the many projects and programs supported throughout Community Partnerships, we’ve found that coming together creates the biggest impact. And that applies to refugee resettlement for Afghans. We aim to support and strengthen organizations within their own communities that provide varying services.

As Pope Francis says, we must “share the journey” of migrants and refugees. At Providence, we are rooted in a tradition that calls us to show love and compassion for each person we encounter, especially the most vulnerable. This includes refugees, who have fled their homes to escape war, persecution, or poverty.

By caring for each other and the communities we serve, we can create a better world.

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Visit our Annual Report to our Communities page

To learn more about what we’re doing to help our caregivers and other community partners, check out our Annual Report to our Communities.

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About the Author

Community Partnerships is a division that aligns the influence of Providence to create stronger communities, raise awareness, and illuminate a pathway that inspires all to serve. Through partnerships, we work to improve the health of our nation and achieve our goal of Health for a Better World.

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