“Seven months into our escape from the Taliban, my brother and I are still waiting for our work identification. Others have received theirs…we want to provide for our families but, without permission to work, that is not possible.”Munir Ahmad Sadaqa
Now free, all they ask for is the ability to provide for their family and pursue their new lives. Unfortunately, even the best intentions result in failures. Some refugee families are still living in hotels. Imagine going on vacation with your family and living in a hotel room for months and months. Children’s bed times, food prep, proximity…can you sense the emotions?
Some families were offered apartments in areas around Baltimore that I wouldn’t dare walk through. Can you imagine being uprooted from your home culture and dropped into a completely different culture (and language)? And then, only months after the shock begins to wear off, you are offered an apartment, excitedly accept the offer, and unknowingly move into your home where gunfire and shootings are the norm?
Americans wouldn’t do that to their family and friends…how can we do that to refugees that we rescued and welcomed into our country? The least we can do is is provide them the fundamentals to live, to take care of their families, and to enjoy the same freedoms we take for granted every day.
“If we treat only the symptoms or if we misdiagnose the underlying problem, we will not improve their situation, and we might actually make their lives worse.”Steve Corbett, When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor . . . and Yourself
On Tuesday, we enjoyed a traditional Afghan dinner with Munir Ahmad Sadaqa and his brother to discuss their predicament.
After their escape, they landed at Fort Dix, New Jersey and lived there until the International Rescue Committee moved them extended stay hotels near Baltimore-Washington International Airport. Part of the IRC’s work includes assisting refugees in filing paperwork to receive their Social Security Number and work identification. To this day, neither of them have received their work identification. Fundamentally, this is hugely important to starting a new life; without it, they are not legally permitted to work.
During and after dinner, Aaron and I continued to ask many questions about other refugee families, challenges with coordination papers and documents with government organizations, the emotional and practical results of not working, and the status of current family and friends in Afghanistan.
Finally, our conversation landed on the topic of hope
What could the four of us do, working with other organizations, to help Afghan refugee families thrive while in the United States. What you probably don’t realize is that refugees are located all across the United States. Axios provides a great map that summarizes their distribution by US State.
We bucketed our efforts temporarily into two phases:
Phase 1 – Work with three families to identify legitimate needs. Primarily, our efforts will focus on phone calls and visits to government offices to assist the work identification process. Afghan families are not working due to lack of opportunities We will also work with other organizations to identify safe family housing options. Hackers for Charity continues our technological support efforts but providing families with a laptop and hands-on cyber training, when needed. Finally, Love Anne Arundel will rally local organizations and our communities to donate towards a fund to help families off-set housing down-payments and initial rent costs.
Phase 2 – Streamline the program by integrating feedback and corrections from Phase 1. Expand the program to other 40 Afghan refugee families in our county. Help other community organizations standardize their process of helping not only the physical needs but their sustaining, relational needs as well.
Our efforts are not exacting…they are not even a 50% percent solution but we must begin now. Seven months without opportunity is too long…
You can help!
Many families left with barely the clothes on their back. Given our partnership with other charities and ministries, we are focused on technology solutions:
- Our current identified need is for 20 laptops (includes one mouse and protective case). Click here to donate via Amazon Smile and ship the actual donated equipment to one of our team members who will hand deliver them to the refugee families.
- If you would rather give a cash donation, use our PayPal link.
International Rescue Committee
Luminus – Network for New Americans
Lutheran Immigrant Refugee Service
Hope For All (an HFC supported non-profit)
Love Anne Arundel
Background and media
Baltimore CBS Local – Multiple Articles
Washington Post – Stuck without housing, Afghan evacuees languish inside D.C.-area hotel rooms
CAIRtv – CAIR Maryland Director Says Afghan Refugees Being Relocated to Unsafe Neighborhoods
ABC News – Six months of Taliban: Afghans safer, poorer, less hopeful
Human Rights Watch – What’s Next for Afghans Fleeing the Taliban?