SOUTHINGTON â€“ Safe Harbor Southington is seeking the communityâ€™ help in relocating refugees from Afghanistan to surrounding communities and are organizing a public information session for Feb. 26 at the Southington Community Cultural Arts (SoCCA) building.
The information session will be held from 10 a.m. to noon at the SoCCA building at 93 Main St. Safe Harbor Southington is working with IRIS (Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services) to assist a refugee family as they re-settle in the area.
To do that, Safe Harbor Southington is hoping find those willing to help the refugees locate appropriate housing, learn English, get furniture and clothing and become integrated into medical and education systems. In addition, community partners will be sought that can help provide rides for the family and familiarize them with public transportation, help them complete government forms and help them obtain employment.
Cheryl Lounsbury, a former town councilor and the current president of United Way of Southington, is a spokesperson for the Safe Harbor Southington group. After the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, she was motivated to help.
â€śOver the last 20 years, there have been around 300,000 Afghanis who have helped the U.S. military,â€ť said Lounsbury. â€śThen, we had to leave and now these people canâ€™t go back; they would likely be targeted. Many of them are currently being sheltered on U.S. military bases. The least that we can do is to help them settle in the United States.â€ť
Lounsbury said that the U.S. Refugee Admissions program has â€śthe most stringent vetting process of any country.â€ť Those wanting to immigrate, she said, must go through rigorous security screening and medical clearances. While she does not currently have the names of the family or the size of the family, she said that they have already gone through this process.
â€śThe goal is to be able to get them self-sufficient in between six to 12 months,â€ť said Lounsbury. â€śThey are ready to come here once we have the support system in place. Bringing immigrants to the community will help us too. I taught immigrants when I taught in Branford. They are motivated to succeed and to have their children succeed and excel. They have enthusiasm for America. They are hard workers and desire to become responsible, productive citizens. â€ť
However, because Southington does not currently have access to public transportation, the refugee family will not be able to relocate to town. Instead, Lounsbury said that Safe Harbor Southington will be looking into surrounding towns and cities such as Plainville and Waterbury.
â€śWaterbury already has the beginnings of an Afghani community,â€ť said Lounsbury.
Lounsbury said that similar groups to Safe Harbor Southington are currently working to assist Afghani refugees in Woodbury and Simsbury.
â€śRight now, weâ€™re just trying to get the word out and provide information for those who want to join our group,â€ť she said. â€śWeâ€™ve already started to see great support and feedback. Victoria Triano, the chair of the town council, wants to be on our committee. Melissa Sheffy, a local contractor, also wants to get involved. The YMCA, Bread for Life and SoCCA will all be helping us. Iâ€™ll also be speaking to the Rotary Club as well.â€ť
Lounsbury said that United Methodist Church will be the fiduciary for the Safe Harbor Southington group. Money raised will go through them, she said.
Lounsbury encouraged the community to get involved and help positively impact a familyâ€™s life.
â€śEach of our groupâ€™s members have skills and abilities that these families need,â€ť she said. â€śWorking together, we can achieve, fairly quickly, what one person or an over-worked, under-staffed agency cannot.â€ť
For more information, Lounsbury encouraged people to attend the Feb. 26 meeting, call her at 860-919-4237 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or email@example.com.