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They Are Coming And We Need You!

02/02/2023 03:22:36 PM


Guest Blogger, Cathy Campbell

What a year it has been for refugees finding a new home in Austin.  What a year it has been for the Jewish community assisting these refugee families!    And, what a year it has been for interfaith and community partnerships.

When a group of us from the Jewish Community learned that thousands of Afghan refugees were being airlifted to the United States as the Afghan government fell to the Taliban, we knew we had to help.  Four of us started a grass roots effort to “welcome the stranger” to our community and we were soon joined by 200 volunteers and over 30 faith-based and community organizations.  

Austin has one refugee resettlement agency but the staff was almost non-existent and the organization was hanging by a thread after the pandemic and the decreased refugee resettlement of the prior administration.  They were desperate for help.  

Austin Jews and Partners for Refugees stepped up and volunteers assisted almost every one of the thousand Afghan Refugees who settled in Austin from airport pick-up, to the first load of groceries, to furnishing apartments and enrolling kids in school. Salaam Alaykem became a natural greeting and receiving the always-present invitation to share tea and pistachios was a delight.

As our efforts progressed we formed welcome teams, called Salaam Neighbors Teams and a team of 5-10 people provided ongoing support to one family over several months. For the team of volunteers, this family becomes a part of your family.  

The family my team assisted was a mom with 6 kids, from 4 years old to high-schooler.  The dad was separated in the chaos of the Kabul airport and never made it onto  the plane.  He is still in hiding in Afghanistan.  Mom and kids live with an always-present worry for their dad.  The kids are amazing.  The 8 year old walked into her AISD classroom the first day with a big “ hi, how are you?” exuding confidence.  The high-schooler is studying hard to catch-up and is determined to be a doctor.   The 4 year old is everywhere at once, and the mom always has a smile, a big hug for us, and a cup of tea. They have a large, close-knit extended family and we know them all.  

This family are members of the Hazara  community, a minority community in Afghanistan persecuted by the Taliban for decades, persecuted by others for centuries,  and almost annihilated several times.  We are so different but yet so much alike.

The last year has been so rewarding for all of us and families are now entering the next phases of resettlement.  Children are all translating for their parents.  Housing needs are more critical.  We still need teams to assist these families with helping to find better jobs, improving English skills,  and education.  

Are you willing to help?  Volunteer jobs can be small or large.  You can help in so many ways.  Please contact me if I can answer questions or tell you more about AJPR  efforts to assist refugee families.  

I am so proud that the Austin Jewish community stepped up and led the way to build an interfaith collaboration to welcome these families.  I am thankful that even more families are coming—from Ukraine, from Africa, from Central America.  

Contact me at:
They are coming and we need you!  

Cathy Campbell   

Fri, April 19 2024 11 Nisan 5784