Neighborhood to Help Resettle Afghan Evacuees

Special to the Times

The first evacuees from Afghanistan—the people and families on the tarmac at Kabul Airport just weeks ago—began arriving in the Boston area last week. Beacon Hill residents have been eager to volunteer and provide support to these newcomers, but how to get started hasn’t been obvious.

Just in time, on this coming Sunday, October 24, at 5 p.m. the International Institute of New England (IINE) will lead a program that explains the Afghan evacuee resettlement process and how Beacon Hill neighbors can help. The program will take place in the open-air courtyard of the Church of the Advent on Brimmer Street.

An Afghan mother and child recently arrived at Logan Airport. The International Institute of New England is helping them and the rest of their family get settled.

“I feel like this is a special chance to make a difference in the lives of people, many of whom risked their lives to help our soldiers,” said Suzanne Besser of Mt. Vernon Street. “I’m excited to do something concrete that will now help them.”

During the program at the Advent, IINE CEO Jeff Thielman will provide an overview and answer questions, including about the biometric and security screening all evacuees go through. Attendees can learn about and sign up for specific volunteer opportunities that range from meeting arriving families at Logan Airport, setting up new apartments and delivering home-cooked meals to soliciting in-kind contributions, tutoring English language learners, and many others. There is a broad range in time commitment, duration and skills required. In addition, in-kind contributions of home goods, furniture, grocery gift cards, and warm clothing for all ages will be priorities. Everyone has something to contribute.

The IINE has committed to resettle 425 Afghan evacuees from the crisis, and the number will likely increase. (“Refugees” and “evacuees” are roughly synonymous; newcomers from Afghanistan are technically “evacuees,” however, because they fled under emergency, crisis conditions.)

The IINE is one of the oldest and largest refugee resettlement organizations. The organization has deep expertise in the many challenges refugees face. Over a century, it has successfully welcomed and equipped thousands of newcomers—including 350 Afghan refugees since 2014—providing language instruction, vocational training, housing, legal, educational and other assistance as refugees transition to a very different, American environment.

Financial donations to the IINE are vital. The high cost of housing in our region as well as inadequate government reimbursements mean that the IINE must raise additional private money for each resettled evacuee. Contributions will provide direct financial assistance to Afghan evacuees and hire new case management staff. Online donations can easily be made at www.iine.org/donate.

“We’re hoping for a great turnout this Sunday,” said Mt. Vernon Street resident Shari Loessberg, a longtime IINE board member. “Many thanks to the Advent for opening their doors to us for this gathering. For all these families starting a new life in our town, I hope we can each do a little to make them feel welcome and to help them succeed in their new American life.

The Info Session is this Sunday, October 24, at 5:00 p.m. in the Church of the Advent courtyard, 30 Brimmer Street. Rain site is Moseley Hall within the Church.

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