Ever since the U.S. withdrew from Afghanistan last year, there has been an influx of Afghan refugees seeking to resettle in the U.S. Sammamish’s Good Samaritan Episcopal Church is helping refugee families tackle the challenges of adapting to a new country.
One team of about 15 church members is currently sponsoring a six-member Afghan family as part of the church’s community service arm, the Faith in Action program. The refugee family consists of two parents and four children with a fifth child on the way.
Sponsorship is “hands-on, not just throwing money at something,” said team member Terry Foster, 67. “It’s how you can really get involved and learn.”
In September 2021, the group committed to hosting the family and began preparations. With help from the congregation, the team outfitted a home in South Seattle and purchased necessities for the family ahead of their arrival in mid-November.
Since then, the volunteers have been acting as health care advocates, providing home necessities, helping the kids get settled in school, and filling out paperwork, according to Reverend Charissa Bradstreet, 51, who is also on the welcome team.
One of the main ways the volunteers support the family is through cultural integration, such as helping them shop for groceries. Shopping in Afghanistan can look very different from how it is done in Washington state, from the types of food and their placement in the store, to interactions with staff. Bradstreet said guiding the family through day-to-day details like this adds up over time as the family becomes accustomed to life in the area.
The process of resettling into such a strikingly different environment poses challenges for all parties. Foster said that one of the main obstacles was language. At first, it was hard for the volunteers to understand what the family needed from them. Additionally, it was difficult to break the ice, as small talk was also a struggle.
Bradstreet added that “white people can be overly careful” when it comes to being culturally and racially sensitive. She felt that this was an obstacle that initially prevented the volunteers from openly communicating with the family.
However, with patience, the volunteers and the Afghan family have built a strong relationship.
As the team member living closest to the refugee family, Bradstreet has dinner with them almost weekly. The tradition began when she brought food over on the family’s move-in night.
The family told Bradstreet that they fondly remembered that night and the connection to their community in Afghanistan, where they would also break bread with neighbors.
The volunteers hope that the family can eventually become independent enough to not have to rely on them so heavily.
Signs of progress are growing. Both Foster and Bradstreet said that seeing the kids thrive in school and the family navigating tasks on their own has been amazing.
If you are interested in helping sponsor a family, you can reach out to the team here.