Sometimes it takes a community to help a family.
Recently, several members of the College of Charleston community volunteered to help a family of six from Afghanistan better adjust to their new lives in the Lowcountry. The family is part of the over 80 Afghan refugees who have recently resettled in the Lowcountry.
The College of Charleston volunteers created what is called, a “circle of welcome” for the family now living in Mt. Pleasant. Developed by Lutheran Services Carolinas, the circle of welcome is a program designed to match each individual refugee or family with a support system of volunteers. These volunteers help the refugees navigate their first year in Charleston, through help with tasks such as setting up housing, enrolling their children in school, learning English and helping them find sustainable employment.
Soon after the U.S. State Department announced that over 100 Afghans would resettled in the Lowcountry, several College of Charleston professors decided to help. Amy Malek, assistant professor of international studies, says one way to help was to seek volunteers to create a CofC-based circle of welcome.
“Here in Charleston, it has mostly been faith-based groups that have formed these circles,” Malek says. “We decided to create our own circle among faculty, students and staff.”
The professors put out a call for help and the campus community responded. Over 20 people signed up to create a circle of welcome for the Afghan family. Around 40 others are support members to the circle.
The outpouring of community support doesn’t surprise Blake Scott, assistant professor of international studies. He says the College has always been a hub for connecting Charleston with people from around the world. “We send students abroad all the time, so it makes sense that we would also be welcoming people internationally to Charleston. I think it’s deeply ingrained in what we do at the College.”
The circle was not the only way the CofC community helped these new Lowcountry residents. Last month, 87 students, faculty and staff members helped to create and run a one-day orientation for around 80 newly arrived Afghans. The orientation, taught by CofC faculty, staff, and students, consisted of 13 lessons. These lessons focused on topics such as health, housing, transportation, safety and cultural adjustments.
Residence life director Melantha Ardrey one of the coordinators of the event, says the one-day orientation was a great way to bring the campus community together. “There are not a lot of opportunities for students, staff, and faculty to all work together on a project,” says Ardrey. “It was really inspiring to witness how different members of our campus community came together to support the refugees.”
This may not be the last opportunity for members of the campus community to volunteer for in this effort. Up to 100 more refugees are expected to arrive in Charleston this summer, possibly from Afghanistan, or countries like Syria, Congo, Myanmar and Ukraine. More volunteers may be recruited to help these new arrivals resettle in the Lowcountry.