Nashville organization helps Afghan refugees adjust to new life amid pandemic, staffing shortages

300 Afghan refugees being relocated ot Nashville
Posted at 7:49 AM, Jan 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-13 08:49:26-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Nashville has been welcoming hundreds of refugees who fled from Afghanistan in recent months.

Our new neighbors had to pick up and leave everything behind when they fled. Many of them left behind their spouses, parents, and children in Afghanistan.

By the end of the January, Catholic Charities Diocese of Nashville will have resettled 300 refugees. It's one of two organizations in Middle Tennessee resettling Afghan refugees.

Catholic Charities President Judy Orr says there's a four-part process to getting them resettled.

It starts with getting them into a safe home. getting them acclimated to the new city, addressing some of their trauma through counseling, and helping them get employed.

Orr said getting past the third step is difficult.

"It was a very traumatic, very chaotic, and obviously upsetting experience. It's not like you could pack up your belongings and go. Many of these people, like almost literally ran for their lives with whatever it is they had,” Orr explained.

The labor shortage and the ongoing pandemic have made this process more difficult for Catholic Charities. Currently, the group is working with a resettlement staff of about 30 people. Orr said in a perfect world, they would have 45 people on staff.

Catholic Charities currently has 10 to 12 open positions and they’re struggling to hire. Orr is eager to fill all the positions, but it’s hard finding a strong candidate.

“This is a kind of work that is really 24/7. This is very intense, challenging work, and it requires specialized skills. Most of our resettlement staff speaks the language of the Afghan people coming here or they have a familiarity with it. In other words, they're culturally sensitive. They understand the religion, the food, the culture, the family culture, and everything,” Orr said.

You can help our new neighbors get settled in by helping buy furniture or by donating money.