Eastern Michigan University parterned with Jewish Family Services of Washtenaw County to host 12 Afghan refugee families in campus apartments last month and students can now get involved through volunteer opportunities.
JFSWC is a nonprofit human services agency focused on helping the most vulnerable in their community. JFSWC has a Resettlement and Integration division where they resettle people from all over the world from countries, such as the Soviet Union, Yemen, and the Congo.
JFSWC has been doing this work for over 28 years, and they assist refugee families with important social services that help ease the process of settling into a new community. JFSWC has resettled about 300 Afghan refugees since August 2021.
“In late-August, the crisis in Afghanistan started to unfold,” Devon Meier, chief development officer at JFSWC, said. “We agreed to help resettle 300 people, specifically just from Afghanistan. In the last three months, we have welcomed close to 260 individuals, and we have another 70 or so people who we expect to be arriving by February, and we may be asked to help additional folk.”
Currently, resettlement agencies are facing two major challenges: safe affordable housing and resources. When these refugees come over to the U.S., they do not have access to all the different benefits.
“When you have this many people coming all at once, of course things will get a bit backlogged,” Meier said. “We knew we were expecting to have to support folks for two to three months. Most of these people are coming over with very little, they had to just leave. We knew it was important to galvanize these resources to be able to help meet these basic needs. We are so grateful for the community support.”
EMU students will have many volunteer opportunities to help these families resettle smoothly. Along with moving furniture into these apartments for the families, there are mentorship opportunities and opportunities of helping language partners.
“The volunteer experience was amazing,” Auryon Azar, EMU student body vice president, said. “I got to develop a personal connection with one family. Because I speak Farsi, I was able to communicate on a deeper level with them and talk about their personal situation, finding ESL classes, and looking for jobs in the area.”
The increase of Afghan refugees follows the rise of the Taliban after the U.S. military abruptly departed after 20 years of war, according to the Migration Policy Institute. The U.S. government said that about 50,000 Afghan refugees are expected to be brought to the United States.
Information about JFSWC, including volunteer opportunities and how to donate, can be found on their website.