Colorado organizations brace for influx of refugees from Afghanistan – CBS Denver


DENVER (CBS4)– The US government says 865 Afghan refugees could arrive in Colorado as the country tries to find homes for those who were able to escape. Colorado organizations are preparing.

(credit: CBS)

“We find the Afghans to be incredibly kind, very hospitable,” said Jaime Koehler Blanchard, who heads the refugee program for Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountain. “For the most part, the people are nice, the people are generous, if you go to an Afghan’s house or apartment, you will be offered tea and you probably cannot refuse it.”

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The number of refugees may vary. The estimate is the result of contributions from Lutheran Family Services, the International Rescue Committee and the African Community Center. All three are relocation agencies in Colorado.

“We work with volunteers, from the community, we work with different faith communities,” explained Koehler Blanchard.

For those who arrive, there is a massive life change.

“People are really, really happy to be safe. They are grateful for the opportunity to be here, ”said Koehler Blanchard. But harder.

(credit: CBS)

“Compared to Afghanistan, life is very complicated, absolutely,” said Zahid, an Afghan immigrant who arrived in 2015 and requested that his identity be hidden because of his family still in Afghanistan. “Leaving a country where you don’t have to pay bills and things, and then you come and start from scratch. You don’t know what you’re doing, where you’re going to find work, what you’re going to do.

This is part of what organizations help. Zahid had worked with the US military and left his family behind. A cousin who escaped with other refugees is being resettled in New Mexico. In a way, Zahid had more time.

“Usually the refugees we resettle are a bit further from the conflict than they initially fled… We are going to have to deal with people who have been traumatized quite recently and we are increasing the resources of the community to be able to deal with them. support, ”said Koehler Blanchard.

Organizations need staff as staff has been reduced in recent years, with the number of refugees entering typically around 100 per year.

For some, it will not only be a change of location but of prestige.

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“They could be an engineer, a doctor, or an interpreter or you know, they had their own business,” she explained. “It’s hard to start over here and you often know that those credentials don’t get you the same type of job, the same level of employment in the United States. “

(credit: CBS)

Zahid is working to obtain a license to drive a truck to support his wife and children. Life in America has meant a huge adjustment.

“Everyone grew up in a war, so it’s really hard, you know,” Zahid said.

There are eight military bases that carry out the treatment. Refugees are allowed to come to the United States with less paperwork. Wait times are much shorter.

“They get medical attention if they need it, they get the vaccines they need, and then there’s a process to assign each case to each particular relocation agency,” said Koehler Blanchard.

There are issues with housing, employment, language training, and placement for children in schools offered by organizations like Lutheran Family Services. Many face what they have seen in a country at war for decades.

“Trauma can manifest itself a little differently. I think they are resilient and they will get away with it, but they have to make sure that we provide them with the support they need. “

For Zahid, tension has been high in recent weeks as the country crumbles.

“Mentally, I am very stressed, because of my family there. A lot of people know that I worked for the US military, my family works for the US military, so that’s the main reason I’m stressed out.

He tries to file the papers to help other family members out. For Zahid, despite a difficult transition, there are still things that help him rest.

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“It’s always, you know, much better for me at least that I’m still alive.” And that’s the great thing that when I sleep here at night I’m not afraid that someone will come here and kill me.

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