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Nonprofits collecting funds, volunteers to help Afghan refugees settle in Colorado

Donations and volunteers are needed to support the families who are expected to resettle before the new year.

DENVER, Colorado — Support groups estimate between 1,000 and 2,000 Afghan refugees are expected to arrive in Colorado by Jan. 1. Roughly 90% will likely resettle in Denver and the surrounding area. 

Gov. Jared Polis' office and local organizations are preparing for the upcoming arrivals. 

Polis and the Rose Community Foundation are working to fundraise for the Colorado Afghan Evacuee Support Fund. The goal is to raise $5.7 million. 

"It’s a way to ensure that Colorado is ready to serve the newcomers that we’re expecting into our community and to take advantage of donors, foundations and corporations that are interested in supporting that community," Sarah Kurz, Vice President of Community Affairs with the Rose Community Foundation said. 

So far, $200,000 has been donated, with another $500,000 pledged. The money will be given to local organizations that will be working directly with the refugees. Funds will go toward needs such as housing, job resources, transportation resources, legal aid to assist with immigration visas and medical needs--both physical and mental. 

"The folks that have left Afghanistan since August have left in a moment of crisis and incredible threats to their lives, their families, their livelihoods," Kurz said. "We are so excited to welcome them to Colorado and get them on a path of stability here." 

Nonprofit organizations are also leading the effort to make these families feel welcome. 

Muslim Youth for Positive Impact is already training youth who are a part of their program to be community ambassadors for these families. For instance, MYPI has an adopt-a-family program, which will be focused on helping Afghan families assimilate into the community in the coming months.

"So they will be matched with refugee families that will be matched in the states and will be coming from all over. As of right now, the focus is going to be Afghanistan because of the situation that is going on there," said Amina Hashem, Program Manager for MYPI's adopt-a-family program.

MYPI also has other services that include:

  • Mentorship - matching youth to community mentors who can help and guide them
  • Pathways to Success - tutoring program for refugee youth 
  • Mental Wellness Program - access to mental wellness services such as counseling

"We don’t just want to help with the essential needs of the refugee community. However, we want to make sure that we are also thinking about holistically," Hashem said. 

Most importantly, they are asking people to get involved. Refugee families will be in a new place where it may take them time to learn the language and grow accustomed to differences in the culture. 

Hashem's parents were refugees themselves, and she is asking the community to support those at their most vulnerable time. 

"The impact is so great," Hashem said. "These families are coming, and they are so vulnerable. It is such a critical time for them. The impact that you make will be lifelong and they will always remember this for the rest of their lives. You will always be that person. They will always send a little prayer for you, and they will be so grateful for you."

There are three main organizations helping the initial resettlement: Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains, International Rescue Committee and the African Community Center. Local Islamic organizations are also helping them resettle, with mosques and community centers actively involved in food drives, clothing donations and other events to respond to the refugees' needs. 

RELATED: Denver on State Department list of best cities for Afghan refugees to resettle

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