SOUTHINGTON — Local residents are working together to help an Afghan or Ukrainian family that has fled their country.
“We hooked up with a group called IRIS, a group that works with the U.S. government and U.N. to resettle families,” said Cheryl Lounsbury, a volunteer for Safe Harbor Southington. “They do a big part of deciding who the family is and getting the family from military bases, where they are now located, to different groups like ours.”
Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services is a non-profit based in New Haven which helps refugees and other displaced people.
In September 2021, Gov. Ned Lamont announced the state would welcome hundreds of Afghan refugees that left the country after the Taliban takeover. On Wednesday, President Biden said 100,000 Ukrainian refugees will be coming to the United States following the Russian invasion of the country.
Safe Harbor Southington, which started earlier this year, is comprised of mostly Southington residents. Volunteers will help children enroll in schools, supply food and teach English to refugees.
Volunteers must go through background checks and training.
The goal is to help the family become self sufficient within the first year. Volunteers divide into smaller groups that focus on housing, transportation, health and more.
“I found an opportunity to bring the community together,” said Lisa Allen, team leader for Safe Harbor’s housing setup committee. “I think it really takes a community to support a family.”
The housing setup committee manages donations including furniture, kitchenware, toiletries and food. Allen said the group will be seeking donations from the community.
The group also needs to raise about $20,000. The organization has been taking donations through word of mouth and holding fundraisers.
The organization has already raised $11,000 and has the required 30 volunteers but will accept more, Lounsbury said.
Safe Harbor is planning a 10K virtual event – Run/Walk/Nap Against Time – to raise $10,000.
Janalynne Gius, another volunteer that primarily works in fundraising, said donations will also pay for translators.
“There is a fair amount of costs and the government only provides so much money,” she said. “So it is essential for us to raise enough to be able to help the family.”
Lounsbury said the organization is hoping to get a family in Southington by the beginning of summer.
“There is so much going on in the world and country today which is upsetting, frustrating and disappointing,” Lounsbury said. “I can’t change the world, although I wish I could. But I could do one thing that can help one family make their life better.”