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Community working together to help local refugees in Tallahassee

Posted at 10:56 PM, Sep 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-20 11:40:09-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — The goal is to get the community to welcome refugees with open arms.

"They gave us hope," said Muhammad Masood.

Masood and his family are refugees from Afghanistan. They've been in Tallahassee for 2 months... with the help of the Tallahassee International Rescue Committee and members of the community.

"They took my wife to English school and my children to school they enrolled them into the school," said Masood.

The Tallahassee International Rescue Committee, or IRC, is a local nonprofit serving refugees often displaced by war and conflict. The IRC is trying to get more support from local faith and civic group leaders, in addition to community members, to better assist refugees in need that come to Tallahassee.

Karen Duncan is the Development Manager at IRC. Duncan said one of their key programs is called the HOME Team. Home stands for Housing, Outreach, Mentorship, and Education. Each Home team is made up of 8 to 10 people… all with a goal of making sure refugees feel right at home.

"We've seen these Home Teams take the kids out for ice cream and you just see the biggest smiles on their face when they go to get ice cream at Lofty Pursuits," said Duncan.

Duncan said some refugees left their countries with only the clothes on their back…so many of them need basic items like clothing, furniture, and food. That's not all…they also need friendship and moral support since many left their own family and friends behind back in their home countries.

But it doesn't stop there…refugees also need help finding affordable housing, access to medical care, transportation, and securing good jobs. Kristin Barnett is the Operations Director of Neighborly…a local nonprofit that serves Afghan and Syrian refugees on their way to self-sufficiency. Barnett hopes more community members will get involved to make an impact.

"I'm helping someone tomorrow get a bank card and we also do really fun things we've hosted pool parties at our house so women come in their hijab swimsuits we teach them how to swim, English language practice, painting nails, and really it's just about friendship," said Barnett.

Masood is hopeful he will find a job soon and says…

"I love everything in Tallahassee yes strategically we're going to be here for awhile."

The IRC helps people from Afghanistan, Syria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Colombia, and El Salvador. So far, over 900 refugees have come to the Big Bend over the last 7 years.

The Tallahassee IRC is expecting 400 more refugees to arrive over the next year.

If you're interested in volunteering or donating with the IRC or Neighborly, click the links on their names.