Local organizations help Afghan refugees to resettle in Amarillo

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AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — As Afghan refugees are resettled across the U.S., organizations are working to get them acclimated, including in Amarillo.

Jeff Gulde, the executive director of Catholic Charities of the Texas Panhandle, said so far they have seen 16 Afghan refugees come to Amarillo through their organization. At this point, they expect 25 refugees from Afghanistan in total.

“We’re not the only organization in town that helps resettle refugees. Refugee Services of Texas, they also help in the same program,” said Gulde. “So, they will help get them set up in housing, some of the similar frontline things that we do.”

Gulde continued, saying of RST, “They’re anticipating a total of 200 individuals to come through. I’m not sure how many they’ve seen so far. But they’re their numbers are expected to exceed what we’re gonna see come through our doors.”

He said both organizations help set up not only housing, but getting kids into school, and finding jobs, as they work to meet refugees’ immediate needs.

Ryan Pennington, Ph.D., the executive director of the Refugee Language Project, said they are there to act as long-term support.

“So each Afghan family that arrives, we work to connect them with members of our community who can walk alongside them as mentors. So it’s more of a deep connection point,” said Pennington. “We also identify language deficiencies and work to teach them English, in the in the future will help them become citizens, as well.”

Pennington said he expects the majority of Afghans coming to Amarillo to be resettled between now and January.

He said many Afghan refugees will not have transportation at first, making Amarillo difficult to navigate. So, the Refugee Language project wants to help them get around.

“To get them through these initial months, while they’re getting a job before they can find a way to buy a vehicle and pass a driver’s license, we are taking bicycle donations from people in the community and giving a bike to each home,” said Pennington. “Alongside that, we’re teaching these Afghans the route so that they can ride their bike from their home to the nearest Afghan-owned grocery store so that they can buy food that they’re comfortable with.”

According to Pennington, the Refugee Language Project is also opening a community center in January, where volunteers can help and form relationships with refugees.

“You can actually just be a normal English speaker who’s helping an Afghan learn the basics of English,” Pennington added. “If you’re able to be patient, you will equip them to feel like they are being welcomed well, and when people are welcomed well in those first weeks and months, those are the people that are going to turn back around next year. And they’re going to be students at WT and Amarillo College and AISD.”

Pennington continued, “They’re going to be tomorrow’s leaders. So it’s important that today that they feel like we want them here and that we are embracing them so that tomorrow they embrace us back.”

RST, Refugee Language Project, and Catholic Charities all have donation needs and volunteer opportunities available.

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