After the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan and the subsequent evacuation of a number of Afghan allies from Kabul, the Virginia Conference started a Refugee Response Team (RRT) to lead the conference’s effort to assist in the resettlement of our new neighbors. The Refugee Response Team is here to educate and connect churches to the heart of Jesus who also was a refugee. The RRT is meeting every other week to find ways to provide resources as churches respond to the needs of Afghan refugees in their community. Because of the large numbers and staggered arrival of Afghan allies the belief is that churches will need to be involved for the long haul.
As Afghan allies are resettled in Virginia communities over the coming months and years consistent support to help them transition will be necessary. We understand that this has and will lead to many questions about the Afghans who are arriving and how to get involved in assisting them. We hope the following information is the most up-to-date information the RRT has and we hope it will help churches discern how to get involved. The RRT will do its best to keep accurate and up-to-date information available so churches are best equipped to serve refugees in their communities.
Understanding the SIV (Special Immigrant Visa) and Resettlement Process
- Understanding the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV)
The US Government has established Operation Allies Welcome to help bring these Afghan immigrants to the United States. Afghan immigrants all face extensive background checks. For many of the SIV recipients, the checks were not completed before they were evacuated from Afghanistan and the process has continued at U.S. bases in the US and overseas. Immigrants are also undergoing medical exams, including screening and vaccinations for COVID and other communicable diseases. Once immigrants leave these bases, Resettlement Agencies, under contract to the State Department, will work to settle these newcomers into communities. The information below also describes other visas provided to some Afghans such as Priority 2 and Humanitarian Parolee.
- Operation Allies Welcome – https://www.dhs.gov/allieswelcome
- State Department, Understanding SIV – https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/immigrate/special-immg-visa-afghans-employed-us-gov.html
- State Department, Priority 2 Designation of Afghan – https://www.state.gov/u-s-refugee-admissions-program-priority-2-designation-for-afghan-nationals/
- Understanding agencies involved in resettlement – https://www.wrapsnet.org/resources/
- Understanding Resettlement Process
Afghan Allies who fled from their homeland need to go through a certain Resettlement process. VAUMC RRT has identified three stages of resettlement.
- Stage 1. Screening – As mentioned above, the S.I.V. and humanitarian parolee allies are staged at a U.S. military base for continued screening. For refugees that have arrived in Virginia, there are three bases that are hosting them until they are resettled: Fort Lee (1,700), Fort Pickett (5,900), and Marine Corps Base Quantico(3,700).
- Stage 2. Temporary Settlement – After going through the screening process, allies will be assigned to a resettlement agency and a caseworker. They will be housed in temporary housing, such as hotels or AirBnBs until a permanent settlement is secured.
- Stage 3. Permanent Settlement – As soon as affordable housing is available, they will be sent to permanent housing, as they establish grounds to integrate into the society.
What can the church do?
The RRT believes the church’s role will be essential in helping the Afghan Allies to resettle in this country, as our new neighbors.
- Pray – Churches are asked to join in prayer for these families, who lost their nation, home, and were forced to abandon everything to merely survive. The work of compassion starts with prayer and should continue for the long haul.
- Educate – Churches can start the process of understanding the reason why helping these families is important. Faith communities can also help the community at large to understand that these are allies who helped us. It is also important to help faith communities remember that the Bible calls for God’s followers to reach out to the least and remind members how Jesus was once a refugee in Egypt.
- Connect – Connect with groups and agencies who are helping in this resettlement process. Churches can also connect with representatives of the Virginia Conference, who can connect you with the agencies. You are encouraged to connect with other churches to unite in the effort to support Afghan allies.
Stage 1. Screening
- In-kind Donations – Churches are asked to join the effort to provide winter clothes for the families. VAUMC RRT has identified and partnered with Team Rubicon in their donation list.
Amazon wish list for Quantico – Check out my list on Amazon
Amazon wish list for Fort Pickett – Check out my list on Amazon
An Amazon wish list is now being created for Fort Lee.
- Volunteering – RRT is appointing representatives who will lead the effort of volunteer coordination with Team Rubicon. If your church is near the following three U.S. Bases please contact our representative and join in the effort to volunteer.
Stage 2. Temporary Settlement
During this stage, the resettlement agencies are in need of monetary donations. The donations are used to cover the cost involved in temporary settlements, such as hotels and AirBnBs. The following agencies are identified and partnering with VAUMC RRT.
- UMCOR Global Migration Advance Special – Sending your offerings to UMCOR or the Conference Center will directly support the resettlement effort for Christian World Service. Click this link to give online. CWS is also directly involved in resettling families in the Harrisonburg area.
- NOVA area churches: Lutheran Social Service of the National Capital Area – LSSNCA who is currently supporting around 1,000 S.I.Vs and Parolees. To give directly to LSSNCA, use this link and select Refugee Resettlement and Immigration (RIS). Ethiopian Community Development Council (ECDC) To give directly to ECDC use this link https://www.ecdcus.org/get-involved/donate/ or to help co-sponsor a family with ECDC you can find more information at https://www.ecdcus.org/community-sponsorship/.
Catholic Charities, Diocese of Arlington’s Amazon wish list is https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/G0EPWH86L6MC/ref=hz_ls_biz_ex and a flyer for other ways to help CCDA with Afghan Allies https://www.ccda.net/uploadedfiles/ccda/pages/give_help/welcome_the_newcomer/afghan%20response%20flyer.pdf
- Richmond, Roanoke, Newport News area: Commonwealth Catholic Charities – CCC provides extensive support in the three areas. You may donate or use the Amazon wish list to help in this effort.
- Richmond, Charlottesville area: International Rescue Committee: IRC directly supports the resettlement process in the Richmond and Charlottesville area. You can find more information on their work and ways to be involved at https://www.rescue.org/announcement/how-help-afghan-evacuees-virginia. To give directly to IRC use this link. To help sponsor a family, use this link-https://www.rescue.org/announcement/expanding-our-impact-through-community-family-sponsorship or to volunteer to assist with apartment set-up, transportation, and administrative support using this link https://www.rescue.org/volunteer.
Stage 3. Permanent Settlement
RRT believes that this stage is when the church can truly shine in their love to share the hope, as the family resettles in this community. RRT is identifying district-level Refugee Response representatives who will coordinate the district’s effort with the partnership of the resettlement agencies.
- NoVA District Representative – Sarah Casey, Director of Serve Ministries at Floris UMC
- Richmond District Representative (TBD)
- Charlottesville District Representative (TBD)
- Roanoke District Representative – Rev. Morris Fleischer
- Newport News District Representative – (TBD)
- Harrisonburg District Representative – (TBD)
Connect with RRT
Connect with RRT to help continue its efforts to resource the churches in the process of resettlement. Email Serving Ministries for more information!
Or join the Refugee Response Resource Google Group to receive regular updates! Fill out this form to join this group!