Churches and local residents prepare to welcome Afghan families

Local churches and residents have come together over the past few months to create a welcoming environment for the expected arrival of one or more Afghan refugee families.

“Initially, the families will need some support and introduction to our schools, community groups, medical care, employment opportunities, and the ways we do business in our country,” said Refugee Resettlement Partnership (RRP) coordinator Rayna Cooper. “Our organization is made up of over 60 energetic and committed volunteers from 8 churches and the community, many of whom have supported refugee families in previous years.”

Cooper said the outpouring of help was in part the result of the difference the Afghan population made to the U.S. military’s efforts in their country. “We owe a special debt of gratitude to the civilians who were so helpful in maintaining the mission of our forces for over 20 years. It says a lot when veterans’ groups in our country are trying to help people who were so instrumental in their safety,” said Cooper.

“I was struck by the situation with our military exit from Afghanistan. The sad part of it was that a lot of people were unable to stay safely in their own country. Many Afghan citizens made a lot of gains during the 20 years the U.S. was there, including women, children, education, and opportunities to be in the workforce.  They really prospered in their society during that time,” she said.

Cooper said when she heard about the need she contacted people in her church. “They were very interested and very supportive.  As we explored the possibilities with other local churches, we found that others wanted to be part of it as well. Almost every day we get calls from more people who want to be involved.”

Cooper said there are nine national resettlement agencies that contract with the federal government to resettle refugees, and the RRP is working with one of those agencies based in Lancaster, PA.  

The resettlement agencies will provide some support for the families, but the community is ready to step in. “We established a structure. We have a board.  The background and experience of our volunteers enables us to be as effective as possible” she said.

Getting security clearances for volunteers is a major process in itself,” said Cooper. “You have to have all the clearances you would have as if you were a teacher or health professional.”

Cooper said there were “really talented, smart, social people who like to do the many tasks of the resettlement – community engagement, collecting furnishings and seeking contributions, as well as providing skills and enthusiasm for adding the finishing touches to future homes where the families will live.”

“We look forward to the weeks ahead. We hope our work will make a difference,” said Cooper.

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Charles (Chuck) Stangor is Gettysburg Connection's Owner, Publisher, and Editor in Chief. I would like to hear from you. Please contact me at cstangor@gettysburgconnection.org.

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carolyn george
carolyn george
2 years ago

Where can community members direct financial contributions to RRP?

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