AWIU’s Chicago Chapter hosted a Sunday brunch at Reza’s Middle Eastern restaurant on December 12th in support of the Afghan Refugee Resettlement Program in Chicago. The goal was twofold: to increase membership and to help with the chapter’s nascent refugee project with the Heartland Alliance. Some 36 people, members and their invited guests, attended.
Judith Jakaitis explained the origin of the joint effort between AWIU and the Heartland Alliance Refugee & Immigrant Community Services (RICS) office to provide for incoming families from Afghanistan.
Afghan guests were Mr. Arash, from Bangladesh, and Ms. Aaila. Arash, who spoke about the United States Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) and his relocation, served as an interpreter for U. S. troops, and left his wife and children because he feared for his life. Aaila shared her experiences in Afghanistan and the immigration process. “I am fortunate that I spoke English when I left Afghanistan, and I’ve found employment in Chicago,” she told the group. Both refugees spoke about the conditions requiring them to leave their respective countries and the struggles and successes negotiating life in the United States. They expressed deep gratitude for the invaluable help and support provided by the Heartland Alliance RICS.
Heartland Alliance representative Alyssa Wilson, Youth Program Coordinator and Tara Guillaume, Community Engagement Coordinator, spoke on their efforts to help Afghan refugees resettle in Chicago. They described the process and services they provide to recent immigrants from all over the world. They then shared the dates and number of arriving Afghans expected at the agency in the very near future and what each family will need: rugs, furniture, groceries including powdered milk along with Chicago transit passes. They directed attendees to the QR code on the Heartland Alliance RICS website to see the wish list. Alyssa asked for volunteers to help with those needs.
“AWIU Chicago has supported the influx of Afghans through a previous clothing drive, and we’ll continue to assist in setting up households for refugee families,” said Chapter chair Janice Colom.