In a small Connecticut town, a group of five dedicated women came together under the DARA co-sponsorship team in Danbury, Connecticut. Their mission was to support and guide newly arrived refugees in rebuilding their lives in the United States. With each passing day, their workload seemed to multiply, but they embraced the challenge with unwavering commitment. As one of the co-sponsors put it, their mantra became “rinse and repeat” as they delved deeper into their work.
Community co-sponsorship is a collective effort that involves active community participation to provide practical support in various areas for refugees or people seeking asylum. It brings people together to contribute their time, resources, and expertise in tasks such as securing housing, facilitating employment, offering social and cultural assistance, and providing language training. During our visit to Connecticut, we met a co-sponsorship team comprising dedicated individuals forming specialized task forces. Each team member possessed in-depth knowledge and experience in specific domains such as housing, transportation, employment, and more, ensuring comprehensive support for the sponsored individuals. Their boots-on-the-ground approach demonstrated the power of community collaboration in fostering successful integration and empowerment.
The team had formed a strong bond, built on mutual respect and a shared goal. Each member brought their unique skills and experiences to the table, ensuring that decisions were made collaboratively, drawing from diverse perspectives. Co-sponsorship was not just a formal arrangement; it meant staying in touch with the former refugees on a daily basis, addressing urgent and non-urgent issues that arose.
Following the fall of Kabul, tens of thousands of Afghans were evacuated to safety in areas outside Afghanistan and many to the United States. The DARA co-sponsorship team felt compelled to help those arriving and we witnessed some of the ways they helped the newly arrived members into their community. We went to meet a remarkable Afghan family comprising three men—two brothers and a cousin—who graciously invited us into their humble abode to share their stories.
Mubarak, one of the Afghan brothers, arrived in the U.S. in March 2022, just a few months after the fall of Kabul, the other two followed in the next few months. On his second day in Connecticut, Mubarak met the team of five women who would become his co-sponsorship team. Since arriving in Connecticut, Mubarak’s life has transformed. He now has a driver’s license, a new job, and supports his younger brothers as they attend school and work part-time. The brothers also give back to their Afghan community, driven by the generosity and support they had received. These Afghans have learned about housing, social care, the school system, these are things they have learned during their work with the co-sponsorship team. Now they are able to explain these issues in their own language to the members of their community.
Within the past year, the co-sponsorship team had dedicated countless hours attending appointments, driving long distances, and providing explanations and orientations. One member of the co-sponsor group vividly described the efforts, likening it to preparing a young man for a crucial interview, nervously waiting by his side “I felt like a nervous mama!”. These volunteers were fully invested in the success of the newly arrived Afghans, their dedication evident in every action they took.
Mubarak’s face lit up with a wide smile as he recalled the memories he shared with his co-sponsorship team. There were moments that moved him to tears. “She would drive me all over the place just to help me,” Mubarak reminisced, grateful for the unwavering support he received.
He recounted the time when he fell seriously ill, alone at home. In his desperation, he called a member of the co-sponsor team Lisa Cambridge-Mitchell. Without hesitation, Lisa rushed to his aid. She accompanied him to the hospital, staying by his side until the early hours of the morning.
Mubarak listed a long series of activities he had engaged in with the volunteers. From driving around with a team member until he obtained his driver’s permit, to securing a driver’s license and a job, they had been with him every step of the way. “We are like a family. We love them like our own,” he said, expressing the deep bond they had formed.
Mubarak’s younger brother, Osama, is now a high school senior, eagerly anticipating college life. With a radiant smile, he exclaimed, “I am so happy now. It’s a good time.”