By Kassidy Arena, Iowa Public Radio
Volunteers with Des Moines Refugee Support are collecting personal and household items for Afghan refugees.
They said they have found many new arrivals from Afghanistan are not receiving all the resources they need to live a comfortable life. Most of the Afghans they work with are humanitarian parolees, who often don’t qualify for additional government benefits.
“There are a lot of things that the resettlement agencies are doing, of course. Like, they have a huge job to get everybody housing and Medicaid and all of those things. But they are limited in what they can do,” Des Moines Refugee Support founder Alison Hoeman said. “There’s some things that we are trying to collect and give to the Afghans that seem like they might be kind of not necessarily necessities.”
As an example, she said many of the women are asking for sewing machines. She said providing these types of materials to new arrivals empower them as they begin a new life in a new place. If they enjoyed sewing before, Hoeman said, a sewing machine can make them feel more at home.
“We have lots of new Afghan neighbors. And so our hope our goal is to just you know, welcome them help them kind of set up their home so that they can start to make a life in Des Moines,” Hoeman said.
Hoeman brings her young daughter along sometimes to drop off supplies to the families and in return, the families sew clothes and outfits for the toddler as a thank you. She added the items will not only provide material comfort, but also social support.
Since the 100 percent volunteer organization has limited space to store the collection drive items, they will only accept the items they have listed on their Facebook page.
Des Moines Refugee Support was created in 2016 and started off by focusing on resources for children, like organizing soccer leagues and other extracurricular activities. When the pandemic hit, the volunteers shifted to food drop-offs, so Hoeman said they were already well-prepared to shift mindsets again to focus on Afghan settlement in Iowa. They have helped at least 51 families.
“The hardest thing is to hear their stories about what happened before they were able to come out and be safe. I think a lot of also what we’re trying to offer is just the community,” she said.
The donation drop is Saturday from 3 to 6 p.m. at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Des Moines.