With Afghan evacuees arriving, local resettlement agencies swamped with volunteer offers, final prep

Oct 12, 2021

Afghan families are beginning to arrive in Massachusetts and some local resettlement agencies serving the western part of the state are making final preparations.

Twenty evacuees are scheduled to arrive in West Springfield through Ascentria.

Program manager Shannon Hanson said the agency is only given the names and ages of the evacuees arriving — and little else.

“We don't get too much information, not as much as we typically get when we have a [refugee] case that is sent to us,” Hanson said.

Hanson notes that while Ascentria is receiving a lot of calls for volunteers to help with the arrivals, there isn’t enough staff to manage.

“We're also looking to bring on temporary positions for people that can help us connect with the volunteers and kind of create a volunteer database for this situation,” Hanson said. “It's something that we used to have but — given the last few years in the previous administration and not having such high resettlement numbers — we've lost those positions.”

Hanson said her agency is receiving a lot help from Afghan communities in Massachusetts.

“Whether it's helping provide interpretation or orienting them to the community, the neighborhood, helping find grocery stores where they might be able to find more traditional foods, things like that ... they've really wanted to help step up and offer that help,” Hanson said.

Many evacuees arriving are classified as humanitarian parolees. The federal office of refugee resettlement is now granting parolees eligibility for some benefits.