MAGIC VALLEY — Being forced to flee your country due to war or other ongoing conflicts can be an intimidating process. On top of that, arriving in a new country without knowing the language or the culture can add to the stress.
The CSI refugee office is partnering with Everbody house, a new nonprofit organization, to help make that resettling process for refugees in the Magic Valley smoother.
“Just like any of us who move to a new place, there’s a lot you have to figure out when you move to a new place: where do you go to get your driver’s license, how does this process work, all these different things," Buddy Gharring, one of the founders of Everybody House, said.
The new partnership includes a project called the phone friends program, where community members will be able to have a phone call once a week with a newly resettled refugee to help them better their English and learn other skills to make their resettling process smoother.
“We came up with the phone friends program to offer people a way to safely build these friendships at their comfort levels. For many people, the idea of meeting in person isn’t just a safe idea yet. With the delta variant and the hospitals in crisis standards of care, having a socially distanced option to build those friendships was great," Gharring said.
The organizations will also be accepting donations of household items to make sure these refugees have the necessary items for their homes.
“We also wanted people to have other ways to get involved. That’s why we came up with donations that will allow us to meet those immediate needs that aren’t being able to be met by the resources allocated at a local level, you know surprise needs come up for everyone," Gharring said.
The Idaho Office of Refugees is preparing to receive 400 refugees from Afghanistan throughout the 2021-2022 fiscal year. Some of which will be resettled in Boise and some in Twin Falls.
“So many people, I think every day, are reaching out wanting to help, wanting to know how they could be involved. We also have people who resettled here years ago, who are now saying I’ll have them over for a meal from our shared culture. We know the language. We’ll kind of find them that initial hey you are not alone here," Holly Beech with the Idaho Office of Refugees, said.
In 2016, Idaho had over 1,000 refugees resettled in the Gem State, but that number lowered to 214 in 2020 after the Trump administration lowered the number of refugees allowed into the country.
“I think if you look at Idaho’s history, our legacy of resettlement goes back decades to the ’70s. Even before we had an official program Idahoans were saying we’re seeing a crisis going on and were saying we can help. We live in a safe place. Some people weren’t so lucky that their home is not safe for them, and it could've happened to any of us," Beech said.
Everybody House is encouraging those who speak multiple languages to sign up for their phone friends program to help other refugees feel more welcomed in the Magic Valley.
“The language barriers are real. They’re large. And if any of you have bilingual or multilingual skills, that helps us. But right when people land here in our community, they’re in English classes regularly. They are building these skills. So very quickly that barrier could be something they overcome," Gharring said.
To learn more about their phone friends program and how you could get involved, visit Everybody House's website.