Since October, Greater Nashville has welcomed more than 540 Afghan allies as part of the U.S. historic effort to resettle more than 50,000 evacuees from Afghanistan.
United Way of Greater Nashville, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Nashville, the Nashville International Center for Empowerment (NICE) and the American Muslim Advisory Council (AMAC) established the Welcoming Nashville Fund to help new neighbors resettling to Nashville. Since its inception, the Welcoming Nashville Fund has developed into an ongoing, collaborative effort between multiple local organizations to welcome our new neighbors with the full spectrum of resources and services they need to prosper in their new community. The strategic and coordinated response demonstrates once again that Nashville’s generous spirit in times of need is second to none. The partner agencies involved in this effort include: NICE, Catholic Charities, AMAC, United Way of Greater Nashville, Metro Nashville Public Schools, Tennessee Justice for Our Neighbors, Community Resource Center, Tennessee Resettlement Aid, The Branch of Nashville, WeGo Public Transit, Siloam Health, Councilwoman Zulfat Suara, Meharry Medical College, Vanderbilt University, Metro Action Commission and the Tennessee Office for Refugees.
Since its launch, the Fund has grown to more than $43,000, thanks to generous donors. Nearly all those funds have been deployed to partner agencies as they help our new neighbors secure housing, stock pantries, receive necessary health care, enroll their children in school, obtain important legal documents and much more. Now, one of the most pressing financial needs of the coalition is funding to process asylum applications. Due to the emergency nature of the evacuation, the majority of Afghan evacuees entered the United States under the immigration status of “Humanitarian Parole,” a designation that gives permission to remain in the United States for only two years. The asylum process is the primary mechanism for ensuring that our Afghan allies are able to legally remain in the United States beyond those two years.
“We are extremely grateful for the multi-agency collaboration initiated by the launch of the Welcoming Nashville Fund,” said Chris Linthicum, director of resettlement services at NICE. “Through the ceaseless work of our staff, partners and volunteers, our new neighbors are being welcomed to their new community with open arms and warm hearts. However, we still need support to meet the unprecedented challenges faced by our Afghan friends, and by the agencies that are serving their transition into the U.S.”
“The ultimate goal is for every resettled family to become self-reliant as soon as possible,” said Catholic Charities Executive Director Judy K. Orr. “Decades of experience in resettlement tells us this process usually takes about six months or more depending on the family. We are at the very beginning of a long yet familiar process for many of the families. We have to recognize that many of our new neighbors coming to Nashville have been through traumatic situations that will require specialized expertise and funding to resolve. Every family will also face the expensive and time-consuming process of filing for asylum. It’s a privilege and an honor to work alongside other trusted community organizations like United Way, NICE and AMAC to ensure our Afghan allies have the best opportunity at building the lives they dream of here in the United States.”
“As our new Afghan neighbors settle down in Nashville, it is critical they have the support they need to adjust to their life in America,” said Sabina Mohyuddin, executive director at AMAC. “The support begins with basic needs such as housing and food, but continues with employment, immigration and much more. We are grateful for the work of NICE and Catholic Charities and the many community partners and volunteers who have stepped up to continue to make Nashville a welcoming place. But there is so much more to do. We keep asking ourselves, what will it take for our new Afghan neighbors to fully integrate and be on the path to success? As we’ve seen with other refugee populations, it will be to help them create and strengthen their new identity as Afghan Americans.”
To learn more or make a donation, visit unitedwaygreaternashville.org/welcoming-nashville-fund.