Most of the families we serve are from Afghanistan and arrive with SIV status (Special Immigration Visa) because they were employed with the U.S. military or embassy. However, GNCH volunteers have also assisted a few families from El Salvador
The families from Afghanistan speak Dari or Pashto. However, most of the husbands have some English capacity and the children are gaining English quickly in school and from television. The wives are eager to learn some survival English so they are less dependent.
Spanish is the mother tongue of the families from El Salvador and since there are many Spanish speakers in the DMV area, they have an easier time adapting.
Refugees, immigrants and asylum seekers would never choose to leave their homeland under normal circumstances, but they are fleeing life-threatening circumstances. The Afghans who worked for the U.S. agencies have become targets by those who oppose the U.S. government interventions.
The housing for families is secured by the resettlement agencies. GNCH works primarily with LSS (Lutheran Social Services) and LSS issues requests for GNCH to prepare the apartments for the new arrivals.
Families are given a small stipend for their first three months in the U.S. Their case worker (from LSS or other resettlement agency) helps them to register with the state social service agencies, children are enrolled in the local school system and each family member receives initial dental and medical examinations to determine a base line for their health needs. Basic employment counseling and entry level options are suggested to arriving heads of household. After 3 months all subsidies are finished and a family must begin to provide for their own sustainability.
This is the challenge. It is the reason the resettlement agencies recruit volunteers and donors and friends to assist in mentoring and befriending refugee families. The transition to independence and sustainability is a much longer process. But the funding which resettlement agencies have been allotted for each family is limited to 3 months. Heads of household usually find entry level jobs quickly and offer some support, but the families rely on the state subsidies while working to establish their own financial stability. Organizations like GNCH sometimes choose to adopt a family or commit some assistance to help them become more self sufficient. In particular circumstances, local volunteer groups like GNCH provide emergency funds with the aid of institutional and individual donors. During the period of COVID, GNCH has provided LSS with $40,000 for distribution to families in need, thanks to our generous donors.
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