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Support Afghan Refugees through CIRI

In response to inquiries from SVP Partners seeking to support the efforts to resettle Afghan refugees arriving in Connecticut, Robert Smith, SVP founding Partner and board member of CIRI - Connecticut Institute for Refugees and Immigrants, has summarized the needs and opportunities to help. CIRI was SVP’s first Investee in 2013.

Dear SVP Partners,

During these troubling times in Afghanistan, a number of our Partners - led by Dick Ferguson and Bruce Koe-have asked how SVP Partners can help with the over 100 refugees that are coming to Connecticut.

To that end, summarized below are the needs of CIRI - Connecticut Institute for Refugees and Immigrants. CIRI provides legal, economic, linguistic, and social services to immigrants, refugees, survivors of human trafficking and torture, and unaccompanied minors throughout Connecticut. As a founding member of SVP Connecticut, a board member of CIRI, and a former board member of SVP, I have worked with CIRI for the past 7 years and can attest to their work and dedication in serving the refugee and immigrant population. I first got involved with CIRI when they were an Investee of SVP, and I have been working with them ever since.

CIRI’s Response to the Afghanistan Crisis

CIRI stands ready to provide life-saving legal and social services to Afghan individuals and their families. As we have for 103-years, CIRI is unwavering in its commitment to resettle individuals, help them heal from trauma, and rebuild their lives, no matter where they come from or what crisis they have endured. We have witnessed our community step up to help time and again. Today, we need your help once again to ensure that every Afghan that needs our help can receive it.

CIRI is asking for help from the SVP community in the following four areas:

1) Awareness/Fundraising

In collaboration with their national agency, US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI), and state and local partners, CIRI is engaged in community outreach and awareness activities. The activities include: Facebook Live conversations, press conferences, meeting with reporters, social media campaigns, and individual conversations with stakeholders.

The activities serve as a call to action to garner support for the current Afghan community in Connecticut and those they anticipate welcoming in the coming months and years. Most, if not all, of new arrivals will arrive with nothing and without access to public financial support traditionally provided to refugees. “Humanitarian Parole” is a temporary status, and it will take time for these refugees to receive their employment authorization. Many of the new arrivals will have a mid-to-high level of education and English proficiency, thus highly employable.

During the 3 to 6 months it may take, CIRI is taking responsibility for providing clients with the high level of support and care offered to their refugee clients. As of now, there is no federal or State funding available for the work that CIRI will do to resettle the Afghan refugees. This is going to be a huge financial burden for the organization. CIRI has launched the Afghan Relief Fund to support myriad needs, including: housing, utilities, food, clothing, school supplies, transportation, and legal fees. Assisting CIRI with promoting the fund, and our awareness activities will help engage public and private entities in support.

For more information or to make a donation please go to:

2) Pro-bono Legal Support

CIRI is working with Afghans living in Connecticut seeking humanitarian relief for family members living in Afghanistan or in a second country after fleeing Afghanistan. They are seeking to expand their partnership with attorneys and/or law firms to provide pro-bono support to these individuals in applying for humanitarian parole.

To date they have a call log of over 100 individuals seeking assistance. CIRI estimates each individual application will take a 2-hour time commitment, with many individuals applying for multiple family members. CIRI will provide a template for guidance in making the application as well as technical assistance with this and related matters.

To assist with Pro-bono legal support, please contact

3) Housing

CIRI is preparing to receive up to 100 individuals over the next 3-6 months, which translates into approximately 40 households with a mix of single individuals and families. USCRI is set to support emergency housing in hotels, as they will likely have 24-48 hours notice of arrival, and CIRI is responsible for securing safe and appropriate permanent housing. CIRI is currently working with landlords, municipalities and partners in the cities of Bridgeport, Norwalk and Stamford to secure such housing. Introduction to resources, including individual apartments and larger partnerships, as well as advocacy with local housing authorities will help support this effort.

To assist with housing, please contact

4) Mental Health Support

The severe trauma of fleeing, coupled often with a history of trauma, increases the need for mental health support for Afghans arriving in the US. Additionally, the trauma of having family members stranded overseas is already causing much stress in the Afghan community. There is more than one instance of a family from the US visiting family in Afghanistan for the summer and/or holiday celebration, and now unable to get back to the US. CIRI is currently building their network of providers, and assisting engaging therapists and/or therapy groups will enhance these efforts.

To assist with providers of mental health, please contact

As a founding member of SVP Connecticut, I appreciate this community of Partners who are always willing to give back to the community. For more information about CIRI and the work that they are involved in and their response to the Afghanistan crisis, please go to

Thank you very much for your time and attention to this important matter.

Robert J. Smith

Program Director, 4-CT

Founding Member, SVP Connecticut

Board Member, CIRI

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