Welcoming Our New Neighbors | Teen Ink

Welcoming Our New Neighbors

May 21, 2022
By grantwang9 BRONZE, East Amherst, New York
grantwang9 BRONZE, East Amherst, New York
3 articles 0 photos 0 comments

            Since November 2021, a total of 456 Afghan evacuees have arrived in Buffalo, New York through resettlement agencies. Because so many Afghans fled their country so quickly, there is an urgent need for services to help them. Although these evacuees have received help and support from five local groups (Catholic Charities of Buffalo, the International Institute of Buffalo, Jericho Road Community Health Center, Jewish Family Services of Western New York, and Journey’s End Refugee Services) to settle down in Buffalo, they still need more help assimilating into the community. In particular, the evacuees who are children need to learn English and become accustomed to the American school system.


            I feel that these evacuees are victims of war. Most of the Afghan evacuees had to flee their home country in fear of the Taliban. Some of them still have families in Afghanistan, so they worry about their families constantly. I am a second-generation immigrant myself, and I learned about the challenges my parents faced when coming to the United States. Therefore, I feel it is my responsibility to help these refugees settle down and feel at home.


         Last week I had the opportunity to work with Journey’s End to assist some newly arrived Afghan refugee children. Seeing their shy faces turn to delight after a week really warmed my heart because what they’ve been through is unimaginable. Throughout the week, we picked them up from their hotels and took them to a local library where we taught them English through a variety of techniques. Although there are plenty of English to Pashto (the language they speak) translators online, none of them had the text-to-speech ability; they were only able to translate in written form. As a result, teaching the evacuee children English was especially challenging because many of them could read little to no Pashto and could only speak it. However, one thing that the language barrier can’t stop is fun - we taught them everything through various fun activities such as games and sports. We even took them to the zoo to learn the names of animals in English.


             My next mission is to help make barren apartments into cozy, welcoming homes for these newly-arriving refugee families. Although the resettlement agencies helped them find apartments, they barely have sufficient resources for establishing households. I will do fundraising to collect donations from the community to provide these families with essential furniture, such as tables, mattresses, etc., as well as other household items like dishes and toiletries. I can’t wait until we move these items in! 


             It has been an incredible experience for me to get to know the new refugees and contribute to their resettlement in Buffalo. Let’s work together to further grow our community!


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