Six years ago the Syrian crisis moved longtime Westporter John McGeehan to help lead a coalition of churches, synagogues and mosques to help resettle a family in Norwalk.
They pioneered, with Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services, a model for community co-sponsorship. Local residents provide broad shoulders and deep pockets. The model has been replicated in more than 50 Connecticut towns and cities.
The swift Taliban conquest of Afghanistan sparked a national conversation about American efforts to resettle Afghan citizens who aided American forces, during our 20-year conflict.
Once again, as Connecticut prepares to welcome up to 700 refugees, McGeehan is hard at work. So is the Westport Rotary Club, and individuals like Robin Tauck.
For the past 3 years Robin — a Westporter, member of the worldwide tour company family, and sponsor of Greens Farms Academy’s World Perspectives program — and her daughter Colleen Leth have, through their non-profit foundation, worked with IRIS to sponsor refugees.
As the Afghan crisis unfolded, she thought of the Rotary Club. They’re busy with Saturday’s Lobsterfest fundraiser. But — true to their mission of worldwide service — they’ve taken on the added task of co-sponsoring a donation drive.
Next Tuesday (September 21) and from 12 to 3 p.m. on the weekends of September 25-26, October 2-3, 9-10 and 15-16, Greens Farms Congregational Church will accept drop-offs of winter coats, raincoats, and boots for adults, teenagers and children; school supplies and backpacks; new toiletries; cleaning and household supplies, and small appliances. “Boxed and labeled” is appreciated. Furniture and other clothing is not needed.
The donation drive is important. But it’s just the start.
Resettling refugees comes at a time when non-profits have been hit hard by the pandemic. Meanwhile, affordable rental stock is hard to find.
Each family of 2 to 4 needs an apartment near public transportation, language training, cultural assistance, women’s help, school assimilation, and $20,000 for the first year. Click here to donate.
Westport-Weston Interfaith Refugee Settlement is doing its part. The coalition — the United Methodist Church, Temple Israel, Greens Farms Congregational church, the Religious Society of friends, Saugatuck Congregational Church, and 15 Westport families identifying as a Muslim community — are working with IRIS to house and assist a family in East Norwalk.
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