Catholic Charities, other groups partner to help Afghans in Nashville

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Upon their arrival, Afghan refugees board a bus at Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Va., Sept. 1, 2021, taking them to a processing center. (CNS photo/Kevin Lamarque, Reuters)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CNS) — Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Nashville and three other organizations have launched the Welcoming Nashville Fund to help resettle more than 300 Afghans who will arrive in Nashville in the coming months.

United Way of Greater Nashville is partnering with Catholic Charities, the Nashville International Center for Empowerment and the American Muslim Advisory Council to create the fund, which was officially launched at a news conference Oct. 13 on the steps of the Historic Metro Courthouse in downtown Nashville.

“This is hard work, but the work we do as a resettlement agency is really simple,” said Judy Orr, Catholic Charities executive director. “We help them get settled and with basic needs. We help them navigate the city and learn how to live and work successfully, and we make sure that they have the job skills needed, so that we can connect them to employers so that they can be productive citizens.”

Catholic Charities and the Nashville International Center for Empowerment, known as NICE, are the main agencies in charge of resettling the Afghans. They have already welcomed more than 20 Afghans to Nashville.

“This is important work,” Orr said. “So many of us came from other countries or our ancestors came from other countries.”

This process is often estimated to take six to eight months, which is where the Welcoming Nashville Fund comes into play.

“This fund will make a difference for people and will enable us to provide extended services,” she said. “These people have been through trauma, and it is very important that we have the means to help them in the way that they need.”

“Congress has recently passed a bill that provides temporary assistance for Afghan evacuees. While this funding does help pay for some initial basic needs, our goal is to welcome our Afghan allies with all the tools and resources they need to prosper,” according to the official website for United Way of Greater Nashville.

“We are leaning on the Nashville community to ensure our new neighbors have access to the entire network of services and support they need to become economically self-sufficient and successfully transition into life in the United States,” it said.

At the news conference, Erica Mitchell, executive vice president of United Way of Greater Nashville and its chief community impact officer, described just how accepting of newcomers Nashville is.

“If there is one thing that I can say I have seen and that I believe to be true about Nashville, it is that we are not only a welcoming community but when there is a crisis and when there are people in need, we show up as a community,” Mitchell said.

“We have seen that time and time again, and I believe we will see it yet again as we welcome our new Afghan neighbors,” she added.

The Welcoming Nashville Fund, which has a goal to raise $300,000, will supplement the State Department’s Afghan Placement Assistance Program. This program only provides temporary support that lasts up to 90 days and is limited to $1,225 from the State Department to help meet the most basic needs.

Gatluak Thach, president and chief executive officer of NICE, said that while Catholic Charities and NICE are leading the effort, “we cannot do this alone.”

“If we do this together, we can make a difference, and that’s why the private sector is important as well as the public sector. This is why the leadership of Nashville come together every day,” Thach said. “When refugees are empowered, when they are supported, when they are welcomed, they thrive, and they thrive in the community.”

Peterson is on the staff of the Tennessee Register, newspaper of the Diocese of Nashville.

Catholic News Service

Catholic News Service has reported from the Vatican since the founding of its Rome bureau in 1950.