Now that the Taliban has taken control of Afghanistan, the U.S. is expecting thousands of Afghans to arrive as they evacuate their home country, and some of them will be coming to New Hampshire.
Ascentria Care Alliance in Concord provides resettlement services to people coming to the U.S., and will be working to resettle Afghan evacuees in the Granite State, with the eventual goal of finding homes for 100 Afghans.
All Things Considered host Peter Biello spoke with Crissie Ferrara, the Program Manager for Services for New Americans at Ascentria, about their efforts to resettle Afghan refugees. Below is a transcript of their conversation.
Peter Biello: Crissie, Ascentria will soon be resettling a family of six in New Hampshire, as well as two other men. When will they arrive?
Crissie Ferrara: We don't know at this time. We haven't been given a travel date. What I have done is assured the case, which means that we are willing to take on the cases that are provided by us from the national agency. So in this case, I have assured the cases for the family of six that you mentioned and an additional two other people. So we have four other people that have been assured to come to the area.
Peter Biello: And where are they in the meantime?
Crissie Ferrara: They're at different bases around the country.
Peter Biello: And aside from those people, how many other people are you helping through Ascentria?
Crissie Ferrara: We are in an agreement to resettle 100 Afghan placements.
Peter Biello: And what is the timeframe for that?
Crissie Ferrara: The State Department would like us to do that within six months. We're hoping we might get a little more time to do that if need be.
Peter Biello: Well, what are some of the barriers that add time on?
Crissie Ferrara: At the moment is how quickly people are getting off the bases around the United States, as well as us being able to find housing for them here in New Hampshire.
Peter Biello: Yeah. As we know, housing is not easy to find, even if you're already here.
Crissie Ferrara: Correct.
Peter Biello: Yeah. So, what kind of resources does Ascentria have to help these Afghan evacuees?
Crissie Ferrara: So, we have funding from different sources within the federal government, the state government and private funding. And there's a variety of ways that we help and provide services, which would include case management services, employment, English as a second language, preventative health care, school impact, which is like successful integration into the school system for children, as well as services for older refugees.
Peter Biello: Among those coming to New Hampshire are children. I imagine some of those children will want to attend school at some point. To what extent is Ascentria Care Alliance involved in getting those kids into a school system?
Crissie Ferrara: Absolutely. We are very involved in that. We have an education liaison in our office who works with the children and getting them set up and ready for school, getting them acclimated, getting the teachers acclimated and all the people that work in the schools, doing cultural orientation on both sides so that people can have a better understanding of each other as these children enter into a new and different school program.
Peter Biello: I wanted to ask you about the longer-term resources the evacuees will need once they arrive. What might those be and how is Ascentria working to help meet those?
Crissie Ferrara: Well, because we know we're going to have a large amount of people coming in a short amount of time, we are also engaging with our community to assist us in helping us resettle and invite people to stay in the area around Concord, Manchester, Nashua and create community in New Hampshire. So, a lot of people are opening up their homes.
They're saying that they have rooms available or that they might have an in-law apartment that might be available for a family. They want to create NSTs, which are Neighborhood Support Teams, that pretty much wrap themselves around a family so that they can help them for the initial six months or a year, depending on what they can do.
Peter Biello: Can you tell us a little bit more about how the community can get involved? I imagine there are people out there who are interested in possibly reaching out and lending a hand.
Crissie Ferrara: Yes, so you can go to our website, ascentria.org, and there's also information there and how to become a volunteer, how to become an NST, which is a Neighborhood Support Team, and where you can purchase items on our Amazon Smile wish list for people who are going to be here and will need the appropriate things for their household.
Peter Biello: This is a crisis that a lot of us hear about through stories about the evacuation, but it might seem very distant to a lot of us hearing just those stories. You have kind of a firsthand look at this. I'm wondering what this looks like from your perspective and what you think people should know that the media hasn't been reporting on.
Crissie Ferrara: So, I spent some time at one of the army bases in the U.S. when arrivals started coming into the bases, and I helped process some of the paperwork for people coming, in the hundreds a day. And I think what people should know is that there was such a feeling of relief for people who were arriving, knowing that they had made it here and that they were now safe. I think it's vital that people understand that immigrants and refugees increase the economic efficiency in the communities by reducing labor shortages in low- and high-skilled markets because their educational backgrounds fill holes that are in the native-born market. And so I think especially now with the job market being the way it is and people having trouble finding employees, I think this is a great opportunity for us to invite new immigrants here, new Americans here, and give them the opportunity to thrive and flourish and create jobs here in the Granite State.
Peter Biello: Crissie Ferrara of Ascentria Care Alliance, thank you very much for speaking with me.
Crissie Ferrara: Thank you.
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