Catholics mobilize to help Afghan refugees

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Afghan refugees walk to a bus taking them to a refugee processing center upon arrival at Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Va., August 25. (CNS Photo / Kevin Lamarque, Reuters)

by Joe Bollig
[email protected]

MISSION – Recent images of chaos and despair in Afghanistan have sparked a desire among Catholics across the country to help – Mary Patterson, a member of St. Pius X parish here, among them.

When she heard that Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas needed help helping the soon-to-be resettled refugees, she wanted her parish to get involved.

“We prayed at Mass for the Afghan interpreters who were working with the United States,” said Patterson, adjunct professor of chemistry and biology at Kansas City Kansas Community College.

“Then when we heard they were coming to the United States, I emailed [pastor] Father Ken Kelly, our parish office manager LouAnne Wagner and our maintenance manager Patrick Barron, ”she continued. “I asked them if we had storage space to start collecting [things] for refugees. We decided to take out boxes to start collecting items.

The parish does not have a place to pick up furniture, but it can pick up other items: hats, coats, blankets, sheets, towels, pillows, cleaning products, kitchen utensils and other items. These items will be transported to a Catholic Charities collection point.

“The refugees have nothing – maybe a suitcase of clothes, if so,” Patterson said. “They will start from scratch. Catholic Charities will work to find them accommodation and we will try to furnish these apartments with donated items. They don’t have the money to buy items.

Afghan citizens evacuated from Kabul disembark from a US Air Force transport plane upon arrival at Rota Air Base in Rota, Spain on August 31. PHOTO CNS / JON NAZCA, REUTERS

The parishioners of Saint Pius X have responded generously, said Father Kelly.

“I already see piles of [items] in the hall of the church, and I see volunteers moving stuff. . . to Catholic charities, ”he said.

“The very definition of Christianity is to help those in need and never ask for what it brings to us,” he added. “We reach out just because the need is there, so we help. “

Father Kelly and Patterson both remember how Catholics across the Archdiocese helped refugees from South Vietnam during its conquest in 1975.

“I am sure we will do the same to help those who come to our country, like we helped the Hmong in 1975,” said Father Kelly.

He also wasn’t surprised that Patterson took the lead.

“She is an exceptional volunteer for our ward,” said Father Kelly. “She has come to the plate several times over the years to help [the parish] do worthy things. I feel good she’s leading the charge [assistance] to Afghan refugees for St. Pius parish.

Families on the way

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (along with various Catholic diocesan charitable agencies across the country) is working with the US Office of Refugee Resettlement to help some of the more than 95,000 Afghan refugees who will eventually come to the United States.

There are two types of Afghan refugees.

The first are those who have a special immigrant visa. SIV families have permanent status and can participate in various government assistance programs.

The second are evacuees seeking asylum. They may receive a one-time grant of $ 1,200 but are not eligible to participate in government programs like SIV Families. This latter type of refugee is the most in need.

Kansas will initially host around 490 Afghan refugees, said Melissa Lukes, developer of the community refugee sponsorship program with Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas.

“We are committed to taking 75 people at CCNEK,” she said. “This is our initial number. It is very likely that this will double.

Afghan refugees at Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Va., Wait to board buses that will take them to a treatment center on September 2. CNS PHOTO / EVELYN HOCKSTEIN, REUTERS

Refugees from other places arrive every week, but the exact date on which these refugees from Afghanistan will arrive is unknown. CCNEK expects to receive 24 to 48 hours’ notice that they are on their way.

Lukes expects, like other refugee groups, those from Afghanistan to be classified either as “primary refugees” as they are resettled directly from their countries of origin, often because they have local ties. , or as “secondary refugees” – those who first settled elsewhere in the United States, but moved here to be with a friend or relative.

“We expect the Afghan evacuees to arrive at the end of October,” Lukes said. “We expect this to be a large influx of people arriving in a short period of time. This has to do with the fact that they currently cannot travel until they are within a certain number of days of a vaccine being given to them. Some of the people we had planned to come have already been canceled and will be coming at the end of October.

Means and methods to help

Regardless of their classification, all Afghan refugees will need help. Catholic Charities hopes Catholics in the Archdiocese will help in three ways: donate, volunteer, and provide financial support.

There is a list on the Catholic Charities website of items that organizers think refugees will need the most (see sidebar).

“We’re mainly looking for things to furnish a house,” Lukes said. “Coffee tables, sofas, chairs, dishes, silverware – things like that. We are open to winter items like coats, hats, scarves and gloves so that we can have them on hand so that when families arrive during the cold season we can give them to them immediately. We ask that all other clothing be donated to TurnStyles Thrift Store, which is also run through Catholic charities. “

Items collected from churches, schools, or homes can be brought to Shalom House, 2100 N. 13th St., in Kansas City, Kansas. The only time donations can be accepted is between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Wednesdays. Catholic charities could thrive days and hours later.

A form for making online monetary donations can be found on the Catholic Charities website (see below). Donors can also send checks to two places. The first is: Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas, 9720 W. 87th St., Overland Park, KS 66212. The second is Kasey Featherston, 600 Minnesota Ave., Kansas City, KS 66101. Write “Refugee” on the memo line of checks .

How to give and volunteer

If you are interested in donating or volunteering, contact Catholic Charities in Northeast Kansas by email at: [email protected]

For more information, go online at: catholiccharitiesks.org/Afghanistan-humanitarian-crisis/. Scroll down and click on the following links to donate items or make financial donations online:

• To schedule the deposit of donated articles, send an e-mail to: [email protected]

• For a list of necessary items that can be given to refugees, click here.

• To make a monetary donation, click here.

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