By: Billie K. Fidlin, Director of Outreach & Justice and Rev. David Felten, The Fountains UMC
On September 24th Rev. David Felten, Rev. Rachel Gilmore and I took part in the Welcome Tent Interfaith Collaboration meeting supporting Afghan refugees. This effort is being led by Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz and Eddie Chavez Calderon from Arizona Jews for Justice. Other attendees included Rev. Dr. Warren Stewart Sr., First Institutional Baptist Church; Rev. Katie Sexton, Arizona Faith Network; Rev. Susan Valiquette, First Church Phoenix; Rabbi John Linder, Temple Solel; Pastor Ken Heintzelman, Shadow Rock UCC; Rev. Rock Fremont Jr, Shepherd of the Hills UCC; Rabbi A. Nitzan Stein Kokin, Beth El Congregation; and Rebekah Krevans, Foothills Christian Church.
This group will be meeting over the next six months including working with the governor’s office and the other groups who work with resettlement.
While some Afghans have already arrived in Phoenix, many more are expected. There are a variety of ways that our churches can rise to help. Note that the normal processes are not in play for these refugees; our government is looking at new ways to help expedite housing, jobs etc.
What is needed:
- Family Support. Would your church be willing to adopt/sponsor one family (or more) to help with the basic needs? Would your church partner with another church to do same? Are you willing to help welcome them to America, teaching families about our culture here, schooling etc. Monetary donations will be welcomed as well – while the family will essentially be loaned 3 months rent – those rents are likely to be around $1,600/month unless we can strike a deal with landlords etc. The need for face-to-face volunteers is great.
- Housing. Likely the state will be looking for Section 8 housing for some 1,500 people in Phoenix and Tucson, housing which already is in high demand. If you know of housing that could be available we need to hear about it. Any connections you have would be greatly appreciated.
- Housing Content. This is a wide category that involves everything from furniture to diapers, food, water, clothing etc.- all basic necessities, remembering that most people came with what they could minimally carry.
- ESL trained facilitators are needed. People who served as interpreters will speak English but their family may not.
- People willing to provide transportation for the families for various reasons are needed.
- We will want to help place people in jobs. Remembering that likely a member of the family was an interpreter, there may be less of a language barrier regarding that person. Also, it is likely that many will have participated in higher learning.
- Do you know people who can provide counseling? There will be a need for mental health counseling – they have been through so much.
- There is some discussion around having a community welcome concert event. Would you be willing to help and how?
- Are you interested in advocacy around this issue? We know that the housing length of stay 3 months – is difficult and goes by quickly. There will be additional justice issues that need to be addressed with legislators etc.
We know there are so many difficult challenges facing our world today. We know that people of faith are compassionate and help where they can. We are counting on that knowledge.
Please let us know specifically how you would like to help and we’ll go from there.