Local church does their part to help Afghan refugees

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Lizzy Camp

Faith Church is working with Samaritan’s Purse to resettle Afghan refugees in Fort Collins.

Lizzy Camp, News Director

As the Russian invasion and war in Ukraine continues, the mounting refugee crisis has been called the worst refugee crisis in Europe since World War Two.  Helping refugees is a main priority for many, including Faith Church, a local church in Fort Collins. However, Faith Church plans on helping rehouse refugees from the ongoing Afghanistan refugee crisis. 

Close to six million Afghans have been driven out of their homes due to conflict and violence. Nearly 80% of those displaced are women and children. Many have come to the US and have resettled in local communities. Faith Church hopes to welcome more refugees and help them resettle in the Fort Collins area. They are working with Samaritan’s Purse, a non profit organization that helps with crises around the world. 

Elizabeth Probasco, Mobilization Director at Faith Church, helps the incoming refugees find families to pair with. No refugees have arrived to be resettled yet. “The situation for refugees is constantly evolving, so we are just working to be as prepared as we can be,” said Probasco. “We’re planning to resettle up to three families. We’re waiting to be paired with families by the resettlement agency that we are working with.”

Volunteers to help these families have a number of jobs, including finding housing, employment, and a secure means of transportation. “They can help get their children enrolled in school, get connected to appropriate resources and government benefits, and find resources to learn English,” Probasco says. 

While the volunteers will be helping settle refugee families into a new culture, Probasco hopes that incoming refugees will share their culture with American families. “Volunteers will also share about American culture so that the families feel more comfortable with the customs of the new culture that they are living in. We hope that the Afghan families will want to share about their culture with us as well.”

One family has already agreed to help an incoming refugee family, and they have already experienced what it is like to help these families. In early September 2021, Sue Penno helped her son rehouse and support an Afghan family in Northern Virginia. “Mohammed and Basira [last names not included for privacy reasons] were a young married couple who recently arrived in the US after fleeing their home country of Afghanistan,” she said. Mohammed is a pilot, and Basria is studying to be a midwife at a local university. 

They are now safe and can begin their new lives in a place where there is no constant fear of death.”

— Sue Penno

They told Penno and her family their story. “With the help of an American military officer, they were able to pass through the gates at Kabul airport and were given a flight out of Afghanistan—to Germany—then to America. They left behind all their worldly possessions but, most importantly, their mother, father, siblings, nieces, and nephews,” Penno said. 

Penno and her son’s family helped with many aspects of their transition into the United States, including English classes, paperwork, Medicaid and medical insurance, immigration fees, and job related transportation. They also helped the couple earn their driver’s licenses. Both Mohammed and Basira now have new jobs, and Basira continues to study midwifery. 

Penno said that the experience overall was a blessing, despite the challenges. “We ate Afghan and American meals together, laughed together, and learned together,” she said. “They are now safe and can begin their new lives in a place where there is no constant fear of death.”