OLATHE, Kan. — Although the Afghanistan conflict might feel like a world away, people in the Kansas City metro are already preparing to help Afghan refugees heading our way.
The area already has a small Afghan community, which is essential for refugees to successfully relocate here.
“The community here can be difficult to deal with for anyone who is… who doesn’t look like them, so yes, I understand that feeling,” said Sofia Khan, founder of KC for Refugees.
Khan immigrated from Pakistan to the United States with her family as a teenager. She started her organization just over 5 years ago to help Syrian refugees and is now focusing on Afghan refugees who are beginning to slowly arrive in the metro.
KC for Refugees lines up mentors who understand the Afghan culture and speak their language to help navigate their new surroundings and provide what they need to start over.
“It’s the dream of every family coming in that situation to be able to find that perfect angel in their life, and there are many angels around us in our community who are willing to take that roll,” she said.
Dr. Christopher Wilson, senior pastor of St. Andrew Christian Church, and his congregation are some of those angels.
“People are already starting to bring supplies to the church,” Wilson said. “Once we have some truckloads full, we’re going to transfer them to the locations they tell us to take him to.”
To get here is a tedious, but streamlined process. Afghan refugees are screened when they leave their country and vetted again by the countries who agree to accept them. The United States government contracts with a dozen organizations headquartered in Washington D.C. to determine what benefits those coming to the U.S. will receive and where to place them across the country.
“They will know what city can take, which refugees speak in which language and what resources each city has, and they decide how many refugees will be assigned to each of those agencies,” Khan said.
Political leaders have made decisions that affect the Afghan people, who have survived living in a war-torn country, often under terrorist regimes in unsafe situations.
For Wilson, helping them cuts to the root of faith and community: to love your neighbor as yourself.
“All they want is a chance to live a life like we’ve lived,” Wilson said. “And that’s what we hope to do is at least provide some gesture of welcome and hospitality for them to feel a sense that there’s a place for them on this planet.”