SOUTHERN COLORADO — KOAA News 5 is partnering with Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains and Vanguard Skin Specialists to fundraise for the 100+ Afghan refugees who will be resettled in Colorado Springs by the end of the year.
We are looking to raise $100,000, which will go toward helping Afghan refugees find affordable housing and furniture. The fundraiser will be ongoing, and KOAA News 5 will be live all day Tuesday for a telethon hosted at Mt Carmel Veterans Service Center.
In the last several weeks before the U.S. left Afghanistan, over 120,000 people were evacuated, including around 6,000 Americans.
Colorado estimates around 1,500 Afghans will be resettled in Colorado, most of them in the Denver metro area.
"We appreciate the fact that these individuals, you know, took their own safety, put their own safety on the line to help American troops in Afghanistan I think it's the least we can do as a community is to make sure they're welcomed and that they get the resources they need," said Mayor John Suthers. "History shows us these situations have some really good results. There are a lot of examples in our community of people who came to the United States after the fall of Vietnam who have achieved tremendous success in our country."
One of those success stories is Dr. Vinh Chung, a dermatologist at Vanguard Skin Specialists here in Colorado Springs. In 1979 his family left Vietnam as refugees. They were drifting out in the South China Sea for ten days in the blazing sun with no food or water. Chung says his family was then rescued by World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization. After being rescued, Dr. Chung's family was sponsored by a small church in Fort Smith, Arkansas, where they relocated. Dr. Chung spoke to News 5 about the hardships of being a refugee in a new country and how much it means when the community steps in to help
"We were on the brink of death but fortunately we were rescued. As refugees, you leave the country because you are pushed out. and when you leave you have no idea where you are going to end up," he said, "I became an American, all because of the generosity of a small church in rural Arkansas," he said.
Lutheran Family Services is one of the many churches in Colorado that has already been providing much-needed support to Afghan refugees, and are working with volunteers and other organizations on how to help integrate refugees into the Colorado Springs community.
"I've been meeting with church groups and doing a lot of talks, volunteer, and co-sponsorship training. I would say well over two dozen groups I've met with already, and counting," Floyd Preston of Lutheran Family Services said. "We go through a lot of co-sponsorship training of how refugees get here, what is the 101 of refugee resettlement so they have a basis of how they get here but also a basis of how Lutheran Family Services prepares refugees for integration into our community."
When a refugee family arrives, Lutheran Family Services will secure an apartment for them and will furnish the apartment with all the basic necessities. Many of those items are from donations.
How you can help
If you'd like to volunteer directly with the refugees: Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains is looking for cultural liaisons/mentors to help the families adjust to life in America. The time commitment is only about one hour per month. For more information CLICK HERE.
If you'd prefer to donate money: KOAA News 5 is hoping to raise at least $100,000. Vanguard Skin Services will match up to that number. To donate CLICK HERE
If you'd prefer to donate items: Lutheran Family Services is looking for gently used items from the community in order to help give the families a warm welcome, and they are willing to do pickups for furniture. You can see the list of items they are looking for below. Please note, Lutheran Family Services is generally not able to pick up with short notice and we do and they do not do weekend pickups, so please call in advance (719-314-0737).