Home away from home: Catholic Charities Fort Worth assists refugees

North Texas Catholic
(Nov 15, 2022) Local

Since October 2021, CCFW Refugee Services has helped settle 495 refugees from five countries, including Afghan refugees seeking asylum. (CNS/Kevin Lamarque, Reuters)

A year ago, a young couple and their baby arrived in Fort Worth from Afghanistan. Like most refugees who fled after U.S. Armed Forces withdrew from the Middle-Eastern Country, they brought very little with them to start over in America. But by August, with the help of Catholic Charities Fort Worth, the family became financially self-sufficient. The father works full-time in a warehouse and his wife cares for their child while working a flexible part-time job at home. 

Amy Vallaster, the case manager who supported this family, said CCFW Refugee Services offers both financial help and physical donations such as household goods, diapers, baby wipes, and furniture. She said though finding employment is crucial, refugees arrive with many needs, all of which are “legitimate, important, and timely.” 

Most of Vallaster’s clients are from Afghanistan and had to flee because they had helped the U.S. military in some way. Once the Taliban took control, they feared for their lives. 

“Most of them are dealing with heavy situations because they’re leaving a war zone,” she said. “We don’t ask about the details… but all of them are very brave; they want to do well and to adapt.”

Lorenzo Pablo, CCFW Refugee Services director, said since October 2021, the agency has served 495 refugees from Afghanistan, the Congo, Syria, Burma, and Ukraine. Refugee Services also supports an additional 279 Cuban and Haitian refugees, with a wait list of 130 from those countries. However, he noted that CCFW’s largest group of refugees is from Afghanistan. In fact, the agency recently received additional government funding from the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to assist more Afghan humanitarian parolees.

Pablo explained that the term “parolee” refers to refugees whose status in the U.S. is temporary. However, he said these refugees apply for asylum or the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) which allows them to stay in the U.S. permanently. He said the ORR funds will provide rental assistance and an immigration officer to facilitate any immigration needs, such as SIV applications. 

Refugee Services also helped 488 adult refugees improve their language skills with ESL classes, Pablo said. And 27 clients participated in Education Advancement for Refugees and Immigrants, a CCFW-funded program that helps procure and pay for additional training, licenses, or certifications to help improve the person’s employment level. Refugee Services also provided tutoring for 112 children and summer camp for 71 children.

Pablo, who became director of Refugee Services in May, said his immediate goal is to provide stability, clarity, and recognition for the staff of 47, many of whom were once refugees and “want to give back.” 

“They are hard-working and have such humility and such a servant heart,” he said. “And that is the personification of who Christ is.”

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