For over a month now, Afghan refugees have been trickling into Vermont to begin their new lives in the Green Mountain State.
Between the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants Vermont, which welcomes refugees mainly to the Burlington area, and the Ethiopian Community Development Council in Brattleboro, the number of refugees originally assigned to Vermont grew by over 100. By the end of the resettlement process, the Burlington area will receive 130 Afghans and Brattleboro will receive 100.
Tens of thousands of Afghans were evacuated and sent to U.S. military bases after the chaotic withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan and the fall of the Afghan government in August. Vermont was among the states chosen for resettlement and as of Nov. 24, nearly 50 Afghans have arrived in the Burlington area said Amila Merdzanovic, director of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants Vermont via email.
Here are some ways Vermonters can help Afghans arriving in the state get on their feet. All donated items can be dropped off at the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants Vermont office at 462 Hegeman Ave. #101, Colchester, VT 05446.
Food, clothes, car seats
When Afghans arrive at the airport, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants Vermont workers greet them with warm coats, hats and gloves donated from local thrift stores. But some refugees only arrive with a backpack.
Merdzanovic said clothing and food are immediate needs for refugees, who will eventually be able to register for programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and a cash assistance program.
Gift cards to stores like Target, J.C. Penny, Kohls and Old Navy as well as Hannaford, Price Chopper and Trader Joe's are helpful to help refugees with initial needs Merdzanovic said.
Car seats are also an immediate need for families. Only new car seats can be accepted.
A place to live
Merdzanovic said one of the greatest needs when resettling refugees is housing. With a tight housing market in Chittenden County, Merdzanovic asked landlords to reach out if they have units available. Housing does not have to be within Chittenden County.
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Individuals and families sometimes live with host families when they first arrive in the Burlington area. Anyone with space in their house can apply to be a host through the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants Vermont by emailing email@example.com.
Friendship, tutoring, mentoring
People wanting to give their time can help sort donations at the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants Vermont office or work with Afghans face to face as an English tutor, a youth mentor or a family friend. Family friends are matched with new arrivals to help them settle into their new home. They take newly arrived refugees around the city, introduce them to favorite spots, help with transportation, mail and any other new experiences. People wanting to volunteer in any capacity should send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Previous reporting: Vermont approved to welcome up to 100 Afghan refugees
Self-education about Afghan culture
One of the less concrete ways of helping Afghans feel welcome in Vermont can be to learn about their culture and language, Merdzanovic said. While many of the refugees arriving can speak English, learning phrases in the Afghan languages of Dari and Pashto can help Afghans feel at home.
The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants Vermont offers case management to refugees, helping them get employed as fast as possible and connecting them with initial cash assistance to get them through the first 5 to 8 months. Donations to the organization can be made at https://refugees.org/donate-uscri-vermont/.
This article originally appeared on Burlington Free Press: How Vermont residents can help Afghan refugees resettling in the state