Austin American Statesman
Refugee Services does plenty to get new arrivals started, the organization relies heavily on the community partners to help them adjust and progress from benefits and donations to addressing mental and physical health needs.
After leaving Kabul, Mayeelsultani and her husband spent seven days in Qatar before being sent to a refugee camp in New Mexico.
“The camp was really tough,” Mayeelsultani said. “We didn’t have any extra clothes, and being pregnant, and not having the foods I was used to, was hard.”
At the camp they learned that the ba- by, who they had been told was going to be a boy, would actually be a girl, a surprise that added to their fear and stress about starting a new life in an unfamiliar place far away from loved once.
Filling the gaps
At least 30 Afghan families with newborns are in Austin. and organizations such as People’s Community Clinic. Austin Jews for Refugees, the Boy scouts and Muslim Community support Services can help with baby supplies, prenatal and postnatal care, and any other household needs for the new moms.
An interpreter is assigned to each family so important information is not lost in translation.
“Right now, we have a variety of things in motion to help new mothers coming here, but it’s the volunteers and community partners stepping in to fill gaps that really makes a difference in helping get donations for the baby and helping mom after giving birth,” O’Day said.
Charity Armstrong said that through her volunteer work with Austin Jews for Refugees she then co-founded the nonprofit Ladies Let’s talk, which helps refugees connect with other women refugees and non refugees in the community.
“It’s a lot to deal with when (families} come here because it’s so different from what they are used to,” Armstrong said. ‘Between that and being without the support of their families, it can be hard. That is why we decided to start Ladies Let’s Talk — to get women out of the house and meeting other women, and help them realize we all go through the same things in the end and we are here to support each other.”
The group also helps provide supplies for families, including clothes, diapers and food.
Gateway Church, in partnership with the Texas barbecue chain Smokey Mo’s. is helping refugees with basic needs and employment opportunities.
The church, which has been serving the refugee community since 2007, connects with families as they arrive, provides them with household items and groceries, and helps them learn to use public transportation. But the church’s focus also is on helping refugees find a job.
That is where Smokey Mo’s comes in. Gini Quiroz, vice president of human Resources for Smokey Mo’s, said through Gateway’s connections and relationships in the community, the restaurant connects with the working family member traditionally the husband and helps find that person a job with in the company.
She said they interview each person and determine the best fit based on skill and availability, There are positions at all levels, including cashiers and cooks.
The group plans to hold a job fair at the church in January.
‘It was a no-brainer for us to get involved, get creative and do what we can to alleviate stress and make this transition easier for refugee families,” Quiroz said.
Grateful, but Scary
Fatima Safi, 21, was six months pregnant when she left Afghanistan, and she recalled a frightening scene — with the sounds of gunshots and people screaming — at the Kabul airport. She and her husband managed to bring an armful of clothes for themselves and a few sets of traditional clothing for the baby, but they have had to start all over with furniture and other needs.
Back home, it is a tradition to celebrate new mothers for 40 days with family feasts and bed rest, she said. But here, where Safi is living in a studio apartment in Central Austin with her husband and daughter, she is cooking and working around the house.
“I missing out on that (tradition),” Safi said. “We have a lot of family back home (and here we are on our own). So it has been hard to follow (the tradition) here without them, and that has been hard on me.”
Just days away from the arrival of their first child, Raheel and Mohammad Mayeelsultani said they are grateful they are safe and excited about the new baby but are still worried about finances and baby needs.
“It really stresses me out thinking about how much we are going to have to learn for a new baby in this country,” Ra- heel Mayeelsultani said. “Back home I would have my mom and sisters to sup- port me, but it’s just us here, and it’s scary.”
Many refugees are still in need of help, and as more are expected to arrive, community organizations are hoping more people All get involved to make this change easier.
Source: https://statesman-tx.newsmemory.com/ee/_nmum/_defauIt_bb_incIude…bbtype=type_htmI5&enabIeUniversaILinkSpIash=1&docMode= Back Compat