Malalai N. and her beautiful family received the happy news recently that they were granted asylum. They had fled Afghanistan in August of 2021 as our U.S. troops withdrew and the Taliban took control. Through humanitarian parole, the Nawabis lawfully entered the U.S. Members of Trinity Lutheran Church in Hagerstown met Malalai through their Food Pantry and Clothing Bank outreach.
While she was grateful for the helpful items Trinity provided, Malalai was anxious and tearful about how to start the complicated process of applying for asylum. Trinity created the Welcome Friends mission in an effort to provide friendship and support to this newly resettled refugee family. Through the generosity of Trinity and other community members, they were able to hire an immigration lawyer to assist them on their journey. After eighteen months of waiting, their dream has been realized and they have been granted asylum. Thanks be to God! Malalai expressed her tremendous gratitude, and that of her family, to Trinity for showing them so much love and support. She says she will be eternally grateful to the church.
Refugee Welcome Network continues the work
Since this family, eleven other refugee families and individuals from Afghanistan and one from Haiti have relocated to Hagerstown and requested assistance. Welcome Friends morphed into the larger Refugee Welcome Network (RWN) in an effort to meet these increased needs. Under the auspices of Hagerstown Area Religious Council (HARC), approximately 15 community members meet at least once monthly to facilitate support for our refugee community. We help procure affordable housing, jobs, school enrollment, household items, health care, and applicable social services. We have recently assisted three families with submitting asylum applications and are currently helping four families apply for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Employment Authorization Documents (EAD). Fortunately, God led a retired immigration lawyer to our team, so we no longer have to pay for legal counsel. Unfortunately, the pathway to eventual citizenship, which each of our families ardently desire, is expensive. The fee to apply for TPS and EAD’s for a family of four is $1,200.
New birth is celebrated
Daphnée C. moved to the U.S. with Humanitarian Parole, a work permit and social security number, and a 1-year-old boy. She found out after arriving that she was pregnant; meanwhile, her husband, who was supposed to follow a couple months later, is still stuck in Haiti since the U.S. embassy in Haiti closed due to civil unrest. Daphnée is on her own, but in the last few months has been surrounded by support from her church, St. Andrew’s United Methodist, and the RWN. RWN found her an apartment and has paid her rent while she approached the birth of her second child. Georges (pictured on the left), was born shortly before midnight Dec. 13 at Meritus, and is seen here at home in Hagerstown with his “big” brother, 16-mos. old Windsor. Mother and children are doing well, and are extremely grateful for the support and friendships developed during this time period. You can read her poem of thanks here.
Moving forward, help still needed
RWN held a retreat in November to help discern our path forward. Rental assistance for multiple families and current economic realities are daunting. However, we repeatedly have experienced God’s grace in providing talents and treasures when needed. Your prayers for this mission are very much sought and appreciated. If you are led to make a monetary donation, you can donate online here (designate to “refugees”) or make the check out to HARC and place “RWN” or “refugees” on the memo line and send to HARC, P.O. Box 1158, Hagerstown, MD 21741-1158. The donation is tax-deductible and would be greatly appreciated. Volunteers are also wanted! If you would like to become involved in this effort or have any questions, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 301-842-4272.