COLORADO, USA — As of mid-August, the Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) said it is seeing a small number of applications for Special Immigrant Visas and are not anticipating an immediate spike, but knows that can quickly change. According to data provided by CDHS, 55% of the 289 refugees settled in Colorado so far this year are from Afghanistan.
Community organizations in Colorado could always use help supporting families that are already here, and those on their way. Jennifer Wilson, executive director of the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Denver, said financial donations are always appreciated.
"Families come with a lot different needs, and sometimes it is a little bit of time before they can get into stable housing," Wilson said. "We are accepting volunteers and donations and are very much in need of that support from the community."
To help keep families housed and away from the homelessness cycle, Denver Rescue Mission's Family Refugee Services program works closely with resettlement agencies, like IRC.
"Once they refer those families to us, we help maybe cover their initial deposit and first month’s rent to help them move into housing," said Shahrukh Suleman, the program director.
Suleman said there are already a lot of refugee families in Colorado, and while material and financial donations are always appreciated, human connection can go even further.
"What we really need are mentors," Suleman said. "The biggest challenge that I’ve seen is a lot of those refugee families, they do not have the right kind of friends that can help them navigate things, so they are trying to figure things out on their own."
Mentors help refugee families enroll in English-Second Language Programs, help find employment, discuss financial literacy and assist with community integration. With the possibility of more refugees arriving in Colorado, Suleman said there will always be a need for people who are willing to help others navigate their new country. Sometimes that includes even the smallest tasks.
"I remember we visited one of the families and when we entered their apartment it was as if it was entering an oven, so we started talking to the family and we found out, they did not know how to operate the thermostat, so the mentor got up immediately showed them how to adjust the thermostat, and the family was so grateful for that," Suleman said.
Those interested in becoming a mentor can learn more here.
The organizations listed below also support refugee families:
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