PROVIDENCE —Secretary for diocesan Catholic Charities and Social Ministry James Jahnz appeared at a press conference Monday led by Gov. Dan McKee to announce relief efforts underway in the state to support evacuees who recently fled from Afghanistan as they resettle in the U.S.
Gov. McKee launched the state’s effort to raise money to aid in the resettlement efforts —Afghan Relief RI — in partnership with Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence and the Rhode Island Foundation to provide support to evacuees arriving in the state from Afghanistan through an online portal, AfghanReliefRI.com.
“Three months ago, I wrote a letter to President Biden offering our assistance to welcome Afghan evacuees to Rhode Island,” McKee said.
“Since then, the state has partnered with resettlement agencies, the Rhode Island Foundation and several other organizations to make sure that we, as a state, are ready to provide the services and support they need. I thank the generous Rhode Islanders and businesses who have made this possible, and look forward to continuing to welcome our Afghan allies to the Ocean State.”
The Diocese of Providence’s Catholic Social Services, which is part of the Office of Catholic Charities and Social Ministry, is working with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to begin the resettlement of evacuees in Rhode Island in the next week or two.
“The Diocese of Providence is grateful for the partnership with the governor, the Department of Human Services, the RI Foundation, Dorcas International, as well as the many social service agencies involved in this collaboration,” Jahnz said.
“As the next several months play out, our diocesan Immigration and Refugee Services office will be working to ensure that those Afghan evacuees being resettled here are able to access the services they need and be given the best opportunity to transition to life in Rhode Island. The successful establishment of this fund is further proof of the warm welcome that Rhode Islanders are giving to our new neighbors.”
Jahnz noted that one of the biggest issues facing not only the Afghan evacuees but many fellow Rhode Islanders is affordable housing.
“As new arrivals enter the state, it will be imperative to ensure that a true home is available as our new neighbors settle in,” he said.
The press conference was held at the Rhode Island Foundation, where President and CEO Neil D. Steinberg announced that the Refugee Relief Fund has raised nearly $1.5 million to provide funding for basic needs to benefit the children and adults arriving in Rhode Island.
“As the state’s community foundation we are pleased to offer this support, thanks to our generous donors,” Steinberg said. “There are incredible organizations working around the clock to ensure a smooth transition for each Afghan refugee — both children and the adults arriving in Rhode Island. We are grateful for their tireless efforts, and for the warm welcome our new neighbors are receiving.”
All gifts to the fund — which will provide support for basic needs, especially housing costs, food, transportation and other day-to day expenses — will be distributed to support evacuees via the Diocese of Providence’s Catholic Social Services and Dorcas International, the two official refugee resettlement agencies involved in the effort.
The governor expects that about 60 families, representing approximately 250 Afghan refugees, will arrive in Rhode Island over the next several months.
Amin Ullah Faqiry, 31, has already arrived with some members of his family in Rhode Island and said he enjoyed celebrating Halloween with his children here.
Faqiry, a former standout Afghan translator working for the U.S. military, hastily fled the country with the help of Providence College counselor Jonathan Dator, who helped to facilitate his departure as the Taliban swept into Kabul in August.
Faqiry told Rhode Island Catholic that Afghanistan remains a very dangerous place and that he is very concerned for those family members who remained behind.
“My parents are there,” he said. “I’m worried for them. I want to get them out as soon as possible.”
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