Afghan refugees begin arriving in the midstate

  • Julia Agos

(Lancaster) – Refugees who fled Afghanistan after the U.S. military withdrawal in August are arriving in central Pennsylvania.

Church World Service, a refugee resettlement agency in Lancaster County, is working with 30 people who were temporarily housed at military bases around the country.

Most are either on humanitarian parole or special immigrant visa status because of their work with the U.S. government.

“We have been really overwhelmed by community support. We hope new neighbors feel this is a welcoming community,” said Rachel Helwig, Development & Communications Coordinator for the organization.

She said many in the community have opened their homes to recent arrivals or offered to cook meals.

Church World Service estimates 50,000 thousand people could be resettling in the U.S. from Afghanistan in the coming months.

Depending on the needs of the family or individual, the resettling process can take a few days or a few months.

Case managers and volunteers meet the new neighbors at the airport, help them find appropriate housing and provide a hot meal.

“Our support really ranges from sort of those initial material and logistics needs, as well as those more intangible needs for friendship and connection,” Helwig said.

Case managers can also help with setting up medical appointments, obtaining employment documents and other things like cultural orientation and weather clothing.

“Resettlement into a new community is a time of hope and excitement as people recognize the ability to build new lives in safety, but I think it’s also a time of challenge and grief and anxiety,” Helwig said.

In Lancaster, the organization is ready to receive at least 30 more refugees a month.

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