Lutheran Family Services Preparing to Welcome Refugees to Nebraska

Aug. 23, 2021, 12:49 p.m. ·

A Nebraska Army National Guard soldier on patrol in Afghanistan in 2010. (Photo courtesy of NE National Guard)

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Lutheran Family Services is one organization in Nebraska helping refugees resettle from Afghanistan. Sharon Brodkey says the group could help hundreds of refugees that could find Nebraska as their new home. Specifics about their resettlement have not been released yet.

Here's a list of ways you can help Lutheran Family Services resettle Afghanistan refugees.

Jackie Ourada: Sharon, thank you so much for being here. I know this has been a crazy past few weeks for your organization. I want to get right to what Luther Family Services are doing right now to prepare for possibly an influx in refugees fleeing Afghanistan.

Sharon Brodkey: Since the beginning of the year, we've been looking at how we are going to build the capacity that ensures that we're both culturally and bilingually, and materially prepared for those who will arrive with the increase in numbers over the previous administration. So we've been having conversations with volunteer groups that may have been a little bit absent from our list in the past few years because the numbers were so significantly lower between 2017 and until now. We're looking at rekindling some new relationships with sponsor families, congregations, community service organizations, just to name a few. We're looking into housing issues, which as you know, have been a challenge and kind of gotten exacerbated during COVID as it is. So we're working with housing partners and landlords, so that we can get some of that housing lined up in advance. And you know, so many of these SIDs and refugees who come here, they don't have down payments for apartments or credit ratings or, you know, credit scores. It's some of the things that landlords use to vet tenants, so we try to help them understand that process as well, and refugees in general, they go to work pretty quickly here, but we also work with individuals, and we've got job placement professionals within our ranks so that we can get our refugees to work and starting on the road to self sufficiency, as quickly as possible. Most of them are already vetted and arrive with jobs already in hand. With this particular situation, because of the emergency evacuation of nature was going on in Afghanistan, that may not necessarily be true. So we will work with them to make sure that we can find them employment in their areas of professional experience and expertise.

Ourada: Absolutely. We've heard many stories now of people in Nebraska who have family members in Kabul or throughout Afghanistan, and they've been talking about what they're seeing there and what they're trying to escape. Could you talk about how Lutheran Family Services plans to help make sure these refugees aren't only okay with housing and jobs but also the trauma they could be holding onto as well?

Brodkey: Most refugees who come to our shores arrive not just with whatever they can carry on their backs, but they're carrying a lot inside, too, in terms of trauma. And we're able to offer wrap-around culturally competent services to help them with behavioral and mental health issues, and overcoming the trauma that they've experienced and being uprooted and having to flee for their lives. So that's that makes us very unique in that aspect, and I think it lends a particular specialty, and the holistic approach that we have lends a particular advantage to the people who are coming to Nebraska and get to resettle with us and with Lutheran family services.

Ourada: Do you think there's any concern with people not being welcoming to refugees fleeing Afghanistan?

Brodkey: Well, you know, it's interesting that you ask that question, because Lincoln already has an established reputation for being a welcoming community and if you look at the Yazidi's who have resettled Lincoln as an example, I believe, at least up until last year, Lincoln had the largest concentration of refugees than any other city in the United States. So I think that speaks very highly to the community and the welcoming nature of of Lincoln, Nebraska and you know we experience the same thing in Omaha and in other communities. We're very fortunate here. People are very kind. They're very generous. I think they're very compassionate, and anybody who's been watching the news and has seen what's going on in Afghanistan. Many people are so moved. And they're reaching out to us in large numbers.