ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — As Afghan families flee the country in wake of the Taliban taking control, local organizations are preparing to help those who come to Rochester feel at home again.
More than 10,000 people were evacuated from Kabul on Tuesday, according to the White House. Yet, many are still waiting for the chance to leave.
“We have people at the Kabul airport that are just waiting for hours to leave… uncertainty, fear, fear for their family members that have been left behind,” Lisa Hoyt, the Director of Refugee and Immigration Services at Catholic Family Center said.
“There’s a tremendous amount of anxiety, sadness, all the things that you would feel knowing that your family members are subject to possible harm. And the worry that goes with that is very real, very real.”
Rochester is one city that refugees and SIVs (Special Immigrant Visas) from Afghan come to. With new families arriving every week, organizations like Keeping Our Promise, the Catholic Family Center and Saint’s Place are working to help them resettle and adjust.
Since U.S. troops announced they were leaving Afghanistan, the Catholic Family Center has helped more than 35 people move into the area. Usually the center is given a couple weeks to prepare for new arrivals, but things are a little different right now.
“It’s been a little bit more quick,” Hoyt said. “I would say some days we’re finding out the same day that we have an arrival.”
Luckily, Hoyt says Rochester has a large community of Afghan families and former SIV’s that have been helping house families until their residence is secured for them.
“Keeping Our Promise, which is one of our partnering NGOs that work with specifically SIVs, are very connected. And so there’s a large contingent of people that they can rely on that they might have also even known or worked with overseas, some are family members, obviously, that that’s the ideal piece, but a lot of them have known each other, heard of each other, and even if not, the Afghan community as well as the Rochester community are very welcoming.”
Hoyt says the Catholic Family Center is currently working with local landlords to find housing families, based on the size.
“We then go look at the house, make a determination if it’s something we haven’t rented before, we do a home safety inspection to ensure that it’s up to the standards that we need to meet for the federal government. If it is, then we secure housing, we provide a deposit out of their resettlement funds,” Hoyt said.
Once a home is selected, the Saint’s Place in Pittsford helps furnish it.
“We deliver all kinds of furniture to them everything from brand new beds, pillows, bedding, sheets, towels, you know, rice cookers, you name it. And then we do furniture, and sofas and tables, coffee tables,” Michele Quinn, the Associate Director at Saint’s Place said.
Case managers also help stock the fridges so families have meals to eat once they arrive.
In the past week-and-a-half, Quinn says they have helped house five families and they are expecting many more.
“We just set up a family of eight yesterday and the family couldn’t have been more gracious and more excited about everything that they had,” Quinn said.
The Saint’s Place also has a Clothing Closet that families can get new clothes at.
Many families have been arriving to the Rochester Airport late at night. After traveling across the globe, adjusting to a new culture can take some time.
“We’re on a learning curve along with the Afghanis,” Quinn said. “We realize what difficulties and trials they’ve already been through, and then they come to the United States and they have to immediately adjust to our culture and our ways.”
It can also be difficult for arriving families because they often have other family or friends who are still in Afghanistan.
“There is still a heavy heart because of what they’re seeing and the reality that they will never probably see their home country again. And that’s very hard to accept,” Hoyt said.
However, Hoyt says there is also a sense of renewed hope as families start their new journey.
“Refugees in general are resilient. They’ve lived through a lot more than we ever could imagine, and I think when they come to Rochester they’re hopeful that they’re going to have a future ahead of them that is going to be one that allows for freedoms that they did not experience in their country and haven’t for many years,” Hoyt said.
With more people coming from Afghanistan, the Catholic Family Center, Keeping Our Promise, and Saint’s Place are looking for donations and volunteers.
Saint’s Place is looking for donations as well. They specifically are in need of bedding (clean or gently used). They also need kitchen items, like dishes, pots, and pans and winter clothing, like warm jackets and jeans.
Saint’s Place asks that people don’t drop off Christmas or Halloween decorations, or outdoor sporting equipment/materials. They take donations Monday through Thursdays. You can click here for more information.
Keeping Our Promise has ways you can donate on their website.
All of the organizations say the community of Rochester has been very generous and they are so thankful for everyone’s support.