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Here’s How Chicagoans Can Help Afghan Refugees As They Resettle In The City

Local organizations need volunteers, donations and job information so they can help the hundreds of families coming to the area.

RefugeeOne is working with other resettlement organizations to welcome Afghan families to Chicago.
Joe Ward/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO – Local groups are raising money to provide aid to Afghan refugees.

The city is preparing to welcome Afghan families that are fleeing Taliban rule in the country now that the United States has withdrawn after America’s longest war. Local agencies have mobilized to prepare homes for the refugees, but they also need help.

Lea Tienou-Gustafson, director of Refugee and Immigrant Community Services at the Heartland Alliance, said the organization needs donations to support people fleeing and provide them with opportunities for long-term stability, support and success.

Heartland has already helped settle people from Afghanistan.

“Chicago is a welcoming city, and we know that,” Tienou-Gustafson said. “… In my field, and working in refugee resettlement, I’ve been so encouraged to see our community welcoming newcomers for years, and so I think we really do have an opportunity to welcome these new Afghan folks, as well, as they’re arriving to the country.”

Chicagoans can help by volunteering, as Heartland expects 100-250 refugees monthly, Tienou-Gustafson said.

People can also donate supplies that refugees will need as they resettle, including school supplies, furniture, rugs and clothing, Tienou-Gustafson said. The organization created an Amazon wishlist where community members can buy items that will go directly to Heartland. People who want to donate money can do so on Heartland’s website

The organization is also trying to get assistance with Special Immigrant Visas for Afghans.

“We are expecting as a nation that we will continue to see large numbers of Afghan arrivals for the next several months, and so this effort will be ongoing,” Tienou-Gustafson said. 

Organizations like RefugeeOne are also encouraging locals to donate to ensure there are resources for people who are resettling here. RefugeeOne provides independent housing, mental health support, job opportunities, English-language training, youth services and other services for refugees.

“We as a country have promised to protect them and are offering them an opportunity to resettle here,” said Jims Porter, communications and advocacy manager at RefugeeOne. 

Some Afghan refugees may not be able to qualify for social services like Medicaid; due to this, financial donations greatly aid refugees trying to rebuild their lives, Porter said.

“We’re going to really rely on community support to be able to provide them with everything they need to get set up here and to really get started,” Porter said. 

Employers can also contact RefugeeOne to build relationships and help Afghans find work as they move into Chicago and other parts of the Midwest, Porter said.

“We’re looking for both entry-level jobs that don’t require a lot of English skills, as well as the more advanced job because many of the Afghans who are coming over have great language skills. They have professional educational backgrounds, so they’ll need some more skilled opportunities, as well,” he said. 

RefugeeOne is accepting donations on a rolling basis.  For more information on how to contribute, email info@refugeeone.org.

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