Afghan refugees resettle in Knoxville with the help of volunteers

About three dozen Afghan refugees are being resettled in Knoxville after fleeing their country after the United States left Afghanistan in late August and the Taliban took control of Kabul.

They began arriving around September 30, with the latest family of five arriving on November 5.

Bridge Refugee Services Inc., which has been helping refugees since 1982, has been appointed to handle the Afghans by the Episcopal Migration Ministries, one of nine U.S. Department of State resettlement offices in the country. Bridge has offices on Whittle Springs Road in Knoxville and in Chattanooga.

“Afghans are considered humanitarian probationers,” said Monica Harris, Bridges’ program and human resources chief. Information on the US State Department’s website says that certain Afghan citizens in danger, who are granted humanitarian probation status, are eligible for the Department’s APA program. This includes $ 2,275 donated to the resettlement agency, of which $ 1,225 is available for critical assistance needs such as housing and basic necessities, including food, clothing and furniture, during the first 30-90 days in the communities. Assistance comes through the Department of Homeland Security’s Refugee Resettlement Office.

Members of two local churches greet Afghans when they arrive by commercial plane at McGhee Tyson Airport, buy food for them and help them move into their homes while they are being prepared.

Martha Robinson

A local volunteer, Martha Robinson, described the effort “to show God’s love through our actions.”

At the same time, adequate housing is the greatest need for Afghans as they move into the Knoxville community, Harris said.

The two churches that to date have helped the Afghans through local aid teams are the Central Baptist Church of Fountain City and St. John XXIII University Parish. Since many refugees need to learn English, they can benefit from the Center for English, which is sponsored by a third church, West Lonsdale Baptist Church, said Peter Green, Bridge volunteer manager.

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