LETTER: Indiana’s generosity helps Afghan family thrive | opinion

Many readers may recall an article in the Indiana Gazette from January 28, 2022 about the settlement of an Afghan refugee family of five (whose names we are blacking out for the safety of relatives in Afghanistan) in our city. Her arrival in our city was part of the federal government’s Förderkreisprogramm (SPC).

The goal of the program was to find volunteers who would provide interim support to Afghan refugees while they settled in the United States, adjusted to American life, and began a path to permanent residency status. We, the undersigned, have formed the Sponsor Circle of Indiana as part of this nationwide effort.

In March, we found that the SPC’s three-month timeframe was insufficient for many of the Afghan families, including our own, to achieve the program’s goals. So we made it our mission to extend and expand our support to the family from a three month commitment to a 10 month commitment.

During this time, we obtained permanent family residency in the United States. We financially supported their efforts to become financially stable. We have dealt with costly health problems. And we have empowered them to achieve their goal of being closer to family. At the end of November they said goodbye to Indiana and moved to Northern Virginia.

Our success depended on the generosity of dozens of individuals who heard about our project and donated furniture, food, clothing and cash to the family. There are too many donors to list individually, so we would like to thank all donors together. They enabled the family to make their first home in America, even helping the parents’ eldest son and wife – who had been left behind in the chaos of the Kabul airlift in August 2022 – to escape from Afghanistan while the Taliban they had a grip on path. The young couple is now safe in Pakistan, from where they hope to find asylum in America as well.

Several local organizations also played an enormous role. The Calvary Presbyterian Church of Indiana provided invaluable logistical support, while an anonymous congregational donor paid for the family’s rent and cell phone bills for the duration of the family’s 10-month stay in Indiana.

Indiana Senior and Junior High School teachers and administrators, along with volunteer tutors, welcomed the girls and worked to ensure the three girls were successful in school.

The local Employment, Advancement and Retention Network (EARN) provided vocational training and ESL training to parents. EARN has identified suitable social programs. They found the first jobs for the parents and made it possible for the father to get a driver’s license.

Sen. Patrick Toomey’s office provided invaluable assistance when the obstacles in the family’s application for permanent residence seemed insurmountable. Indiana County’s Refugee Working Group helped with the initial fundraiser and then donated an additional $1,000 to help the extended family escape Afghanistan.

Saint Vincent de Paul provided the family with vouchers to buy much-needed clothes. And members of the local Muslim community provided the family with a car.

Thank you all. Wish you peace and all the best.

Paul Arpaia

The Circle of Sponsors of Indiana, PA