NOVA RAFT (Resettling Afghan Families Together) is a grassroots community-based organization started in August 2021 and led by a team of skilled volunteers working in partnership with resettlement agencies, nonprofit organizations, and numerous religious institutions and private businesses to address the current Afghan refugee resettlement crisis in our local area.
As families arrived in Northern Virginia, they arrived to unfurnished apartments and to limited guidance about how to access benefits and begin their lives in America. NOVA RAFT helps fill the gaps; we initially focused on providing the basic necessities of a home–furniture, beds, kitchenware, linens, and other household items.
Our results speak for themselves. Since August 2021, we have completed nearly 200 home set ups. Our volunteers have located, picked up, and moved furniture and household items into homes to help the resettlement effort. Most home setups have been based on referrals from resettlement agencies including Lutheran Social Services (LSS) and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services (LIRS). RAFT has also served families who independently departed processing camps and who are registered with other resettlement agencies including Catholic Relief Services and the Ethiopian Community Development Council.
RAFT volunteers provide direct support to newly arrived Afghan families, including assistance with school registration, assistance registering for and troubleshooting public benefits, help working through health, medical, and housing issues, and help preparing for driving license tests. Religious institutions and community groups working with NOVA RAFT have adopted Afghan families, providing incredible support while developing lifelong friendships.
The needs of the refugee families in our area are now shifting. Families are approaching the end of their government support. To keep their homes and become independent, they now need more targeted support finding secure employment.
RAFT is launching an Employment Initiative to help the employable members of Afghan families connect with pre-vetted employers..RAFT volunteers work closely with the employers and the jobseekers, ensuring effective matches, and helping the refugees through the unfamiliar process of applying, interviewing, and on-boarding. This work involves extensive one-on-one work with each employer and each jobseeker, until the match is made.
At RAFT our goal is to expand our volunteer base to continue to help Afghan families make this shift successfully and help them settle into their communities. As the needs shift, so does our work and effort.
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