The recent US withdrawal from Afghanistan has led to several thousands of refugees being brought to the United States for resettlement. Volunteers from Sri Sathya Sai Center of Columbia, MO have been actively engaged with the Catholic Charities since late September 2021 in providing refugee relief support with meal preparation, transportation, initial set up of housing, and co-sponsoring refugee families, among other services.

Initially, Sai volunteers provided hot vegetarian meals and transportation for newly arrived families. To date, volunteers have provided meals to over 30 Afghan families comprising 130 individuals, often at short notice. Our volunteer team, which now includes several like-minded community members, hopes to continue this “on-request” service in support of recently arrived Afghan families needing resettlement assistance.

In November 2021, the team expanded its service to provide housing supplies to five incoming Afghan families, including cookware and dinnerware sets, bathing supplies, hygiene kits, nonperishable grocery supplies and other essential household items. In addition to providing supplies, three volunteers helped with getting ready the house by vacuuming and cleaning. The Young Adult who helped with meal preparation reflected, “as an immigrant, I know how even a home-cooked meal can feel so comforting and elicit feelings of being home. It has been a fulfilling experience to serve the Afghan families.”

Winter clothing such as scarves, earmuffs, gloves, and warm jackets were  also donated and distributed to the Afghan families for use during the cold winter months.

The Director of Refugee Services at Catholic Charities was very appreciative of the support of the Sai Center members. The staff at the Catholic Charities were amazed by the generous contribution of housing supplies and were immensely grateful for the fresh meal service, often provided with only a few hours' notice.

More recently, the volunteers participated in an uplifting project - a baby shower for the resettled Afghan women who were either pregnant or had given birth recently. This unique opportunity to welcome newborns and provide timely support for post-delivery care was especially gratifying for Sai volunteers. One-on-one mentoring for immigrant youth is another program that Sai volunteers are currently engaged in. As Afghan families resettle, Sai volunteers plan to expand their services to educational support activities such as tutoring assistance for school-going youth and cultural adjustment and English language classes for adults.