“I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”
Dear Rock Springers,
We are writing with an appeal for support.
We are very grateful so many people are eager to help our Afghan neighbors and to explore ways to alleviate the suffering of the many people still in Afghanistan. We have updates to share with you on several exciting opportunities to help that are beginning to take shape as Afghan refugees strive to build a life for themselves in northern Virginia and help their family members who remain in Afghanistan.
Rock Spring’s Welcoming the Stranger (WtS) has two primary partners. We work closely with one of Northern Virginia’s major refugee resettlement agencies, Catholic Charities’ Migration and Refugee Services Program. We also work with Historic Christ Church of Alexandria’s Refugee Ministry.
Currently, Catholic Charities is resettling over 400 refugees from Afghanistan as well as about two dozen people from El Salvador, Guatemala, Pakistan, and Syria. The other two regional refugee resettlement agencies—Lutheran Social Services and the Ethiopian Community Development Council—are resettling similarly large numbers. Two challenges refugees face are an acute housing shortage in Northern Virginia and the fact that they only receive federal funds for a very short period, generally 3 months upon arrival.
We are working to establish a fund with Catholic Charities to provide rental assistance for a couple of months for families after the federal funds run out. Catholic Charities will do the vetting and direct the funds to families who are working hard to integrate into their new communities and become self-sufficient.
Rock Spring also partners with Historic Christ Church of Alexandria’s refugee ministry. This ministry began about five years ago, when the church’s full-time social worker, Melanie Gray, realized that many people seeking rental and food assistance through Christ Church’s Lazarus Ministry were refugees or Special Immigrant Visa holders who no longer qualified for federal aid through resettlement agencies. The ministry befriends these families and helps them integrate into their Alexandria neighborhoods. For example, ministry volunteers help refugees find jobs, advise them on financial planning, and raise funds for emergency short-term rental assistance. Our own Lucy Carlson mentored a young refugee from Egypt as he completed high school and applied for college. He is now studying engineering at George Mason University.
Here is how you can help our efforts:
- Make a financial gift to Rock Spring so that we can provide rental assistance through Catholic Charities. Please consider donating an average month’s rent of $1200.000. You can donate here or write a check with the notation, Afghanistan Refugee Special Offering. All gifts, regardless of the amount, will be gratefully received!
- Identify landlords willing to rent to low-income refugees or offer rental properties they own. If you know of someone, please email us.
- Volunteer to help instruct refugees in English for the Winter semester.These classes could be done in person or online. Please complete this survey before Friday, November 5th. These classes will help refugees acclimate to our country (1 class/2-3 hours/week, or more).
- Volunteer to help deliver Thanksgiving dinner to Refugee families on Sunday, November 21. Can you drive? Please email JJ.
Thank you for your compassion and generosity.
On behalf of Welcoming the Stranger,