LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — Afghan families who are escaping Taliban rule are starting to arrive in Lansing, Michigan. Many of these people are women and children, or ones who assisted United States forces during a 20-year war. A large number of refugees are expected in the coming months, but some are already here.
“So far they have been trickling in which has been good for us,” Judi Harris of St. Vincent Catholic Charities said, “We do have a couple more on the books in the next few days.”
St. Vincent Catholic Charities has been coordinating the resettling of 300 refugees in the area. Harris said that the U.S. Department of State and Department of Health and Human Services hasn’t been clear about how many to expect.
“It’s really unknown,” Harris said. “We are very concerned that all of the sudden they’re going to say that they’re all on one flight and we’ll have to deal with that.”
Ten people from the first round of 97 Afghan refugees have already settled into their new Lansing homes
Harris says. Earlier donation drives have helped meet their needs, but housing will continue to be critical.
“Considering the number of people coming thought, I still think this is going to be a big challenge going forward, because there’s going to be a lot of people who are going to need housing right away,” Harris said.
Housing is the first step, then they need help with education and language.
Barbara Schmidt with the Capital Area Literacy Coalition says they are ready to step in with services from English tutoring to GED training.
“Our staff is ready, we are excited about it and we want to help people that have helped us in the past,” Schmidt said.
Taibriana Wilkins is a language teacher who says getting ready to service refugees also means getting new volunteers.
“We defiantly have a demand and need for tutors,” Wilkins said. “We are a volunteer organization so we have many tutors that volunteer to teach English, but we also provide a lot of support and training.”
Wilkins says that helping refugees build their language skills will help them and volunteers adjust to a changing Lansing.
“It’s gonna be an adjustment, right?” Wilkins said. “There will be periods of “whoa, things have changed. This is different” and that’s going to be us as people who are from our community. But also the newcomers, it will be exactly the same.”
Harris says that the resettlement fund will keep the process going through the start of 2022.