By: Mishal Charania
Almost 200 refugees from Afghanistan have been welcomed into Washtenaw County through Jewish Family Services. JFS of Washtenaw County has been helping relocate individuals and families over 40 years.
Their relocation services last from when a refugee comes into the United States to typically six months after they have settled. Recently, JFS has been dealing with a shortage of housing. The refugees have been staying in hotels until apartments have been procured and fully furnished for them.
“When we think of hierarchy of needs, a safe place to stay, to put your head down, that’s really important,” JFS Chief Development Officer Devon Meier said.
Through JFS, people coming into the United States are able to connect with translators, receive food and resources that are part of their cultural backgrounds, and are provided with education or work provisions.
“You have folks coming over who have gone through a lot of trauma, loss, pain,” Meier said. “There’s a lot to be able to walk alongside them as they go through this. Once a family joins us, they are with us for as long as they need to be.”
JFS is just one of many organizations in the county, and country, working to provide stability to incoming refugees. United Way of Washtenaw County, an organization that “brings people, agencies, and resources together to create a thriving community for everyone,” has donated more than $36,000 to Afghan refugee resettlement efforts as of Dec. 16, 2021. Out of the total investment, $20,550 went to JFS.
“United Way of Washtenaw County recognizes the needs that exist and stands ready to strengthen the safety net of support in our community so that all people have the opportunity to feel safe and welcome here,” President and CEO of UWWC said in a press release.
Likewise, Eastern Michigan University and JFS have partnered in providing apartments to approximately a dozen Afghan refugees. EMU President James Smith noted how important it is to welcome anyone and everyone into the local community. Additionally, this effort will open up volunteer opportunities for EMU students. Volunteers would assist in getting the apartments ready for the families and serve as liaisons.
“We hope our community will embrace these opportunities fully and add to the local support network and availability of resources for these families,” Smith stated in a written communication. “Most of us can’t imagine the challenges and hardships these families have experienced. I’m tremendously gratified that Eastern is able to partner with JFSWC and support its critical resettlement work for these families.”
JFS recognizes that these efforts would not be possible without the influx of support provided by Washtenaw County residents. From donations such as cash, gift cards, or furniture, to working as volunteers, it has been a community-wide endeavor.
“I would just say a big thank you to the community for all that they have done thus far,” Meier said. “This isn’t a quick turn, it’s a marathon. We have folks who are steadily coming here for the next several weeks and they’re changing their whole life. They are starting over here and there’s a lot of support needed to do that. We are grateful for the support we have received and appreciate the partnership.”
Learn more about Jewish Family Services through their website.