PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Gov. Dan McKee on Monday announced a new relief effort to help children and adults arriving in Rhode Island as a result of the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.
Refugee resettlement agencies recently expressed concerns with financially supporting the Afghan men and women moving to Rhode Island.
The first of about 250 Afghan refugees arrived late last month. The state was expected to receive roughly $2,000 per person to help them with housing, transportation and other needs.
Kathy Cloutier, executive director of DORCAS International Institute of Rhode Island, said the process of welcoming these families has been difficult.
“There is federal funding coming down to assist, but quite frankly, it’s not going to be enough,” Cloutier told 12 News last week. “We’re only guaranteed money through the first quarter. The budget is only approved through December.”
Afghan Relief RI is an effort coordinated by the R.I. Department of Human Services, the Rhode Island Foundation, and the state’s two official refugee resettlement agencies – Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island and the Diocese of Providence. The portal connects Rhode Islanders interested in helping resettlement efforts to the volunteer and donation services set up to support evacuees.
As part of the program, the Rhode Island Foundation has established the Refugee Relief Fund to directly benefit the children and adults arriving in Rhode Island as a result of the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. To date, about $1.5 million has been raised and donated the fund.
The Foundation supplied a $100,000 gift, and Dorcas International Institute also secured more than $100,000 to contribute to the effort. In addition 40 generous corporate, family, and individual donors have contributed nearly $1.5 million to the effort. Donors include, Bill and Judy Braden, Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island, Ruth and Jonathan Fain, FM Global, Mark Gallogly and Lise Strickler, Gilbane Inc., the Harvey Family Fund, Margaret G. Leeson, Kathy and Brian MacLean, The Papitto Opportunity Connection, and the George M. Barbara H. Sage Fund, and United Way of Rhode Island.
Gifts to the fund will be distributed through Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island and Catholic Social Services, part of the Diocese of Providence. It is expected that approximately 250 Afghan evacuees (about 60 families) will arrive in Rhode Island over the next several months.
The money will go straight to some of the most basic needs, like housing, food, transportation and other day-to-day expenses.
Three months ago, Gov. McKee wrote a letter to President Joe Biden offering the state’s assistance to welcome Afghan evacuees to Rhode Island. Since then, the state has partnered with resettlement agencies, the Rhode Island Foundation, and several other organizations to make sure the state was ready to offer its support.
“Today we are here to make good on that promise,” McKee said. “Afghan Relief represents the generosity and welcome nature of Rhode Islanders when we told the world three months ago that we as a state will welcome with open arms the families and allies in Afghanistan.”
Cloutier says DORCAS International was already preparing to resettle 150 refugees from various countries when the humanitarian crisis emerged in Afghanistan.
“This is almost unprecedented. Normally refugees will be waiting 10 to 20 years before they are coming. But we saw what happened in the airport in Kabul,” Cloutier said.
In addition to getting help for basic needs, Cloutier says evacuees will need further help.
“Although we’re launching today, this is just the beginning of the next year, year and a half, two years of supporting our new neighbors from Afghanistan,” she added.
Amin Faqiry arrived with his family in Rhode Island on Oct. 30. He worked as an interpreter for the United States military for the better part of a decade in Afghanistan.
“We were just not able to hold on to the government, and the government was overthrown,” Faqiry said at a news conference Monday.
Faqiry is living in a home in Providence, where a host family has been helping his family adjust to life in the U.S.
“We have been welcomed so warmly, and the people of Rhode Island have been so generous,” Faqiry said.