Helping Afghan Refugees Resettle: Houston, Texas
Since August 2021, more than 500 Afghan refugee families have been relocated to Houston. Members from the Sri Sathya Sai Center of South Houston adopted a few refugee families and provided them with groceries, kitchenware and other essential supplies, as well as furniture during the first few months of their relocation to the area.
Sai volunteers subsequently expanded the scope of service to their adopted refugee families in many other ways, working with them intensively almost a few times a week, to help them adjust to their new environment. They helped refugees improve their conversational English skills, enrolled their children in schools and provided them with school supplies. Volunteers also aided refugee families secure government-issued identification which are vital to access community and other financial resources. In addition, volunteers provided refugee families with technological support by providing laptops so children could access school resources, and adults could prepare their resumes and find employment opportunities to match their skill sets.
The refugee families also need transportation - Sai volunteers provided them rides to job interviews and set up car pools to take them to their places of employment during the initial weeks. To help them move towards self-sufficiency, refugee recipients were eventually enrolled in driving school to secure their drivers’ licenses at the DMV and given help with procuring second-hand cars, where possible.
Sai volunteers continue to help these individuals through occasionally delivering groceries, clothes, books, and hygiene items as needed. Approximately 20 volunteers have been actively supporting these refugee families during this initial phase of resettlement.
However, as these families become self-sufficient, and slowly weaned off their dependency, Sai Center members have broadened the scope of service to provide for the increasing influx of refugee families into the community. Grocery distribution on a large scale began on Jan 16th, 2022 when Sai volunteers delivered 54 grocery bags, for about 125 refugees living in an apartment complex.
Subsequently, some members of the Sri Sathya Sai Centers of South Houston and North Houston collaborated with an organization called ‘Unite and Inspire’ to prepare and distribute more than 100 grocery bags containing rice, lentil, oil, salt, flour, sugar, green tea, garbanzo beans, toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, and other items. This second distribution took place on February 13th, 2022, when members of both Centers served about 250 people. In all, more than 50 Sai volunteers have since been involved every month in procuring, packing, transporting, and distributing these grocery bags to incoming Afghan refugee families. All these service activities are expected to continue as ongoing needs are identified, and until these families become self-sufficient.