Editor's Note: NewsLink Indiana debuted a new position on November 10. In alignment with Ball State's diversity statement NewsLink included now, their own inclusion statement saying, “NewsLink Indiana aspires to attract and retain a diverse faculty and staff. We are committed to ensuring that all members of the community are welcome through valuing the various experiences and worldviews represented at Ball State and among those we serve. With this role, we intend to ensure that these values are represented international/inclusive coverage.”
This role is being fulfilled by Rebecca Rosado. She has been a part of NewsLink Indiana since 2019 and will be covering international and inclusive stories to serve the community.
The first story in this role is one that NewsLink Indiana has been following for over two months. That is the crisis in Afghanistan. Last, Rosado sat down with the founder of AWAKEN Bibi Bahrami.
In late September Bahrami and AWAKEN were in the beginning stages of creating a committee to help refugees at Camp Atterbury in Indianapolis. With over six thousand refugees in Indianapolis community members wanted to help.
From trying to create a small committee through AWAKEN, a large sub-organization was created. Muncie Afghan Refugee Resettlement Committee, also known as MARRC, is now the leader in the resettlement of refugees in Indianapolis and across the country to Muncie, Indiana.
Tony Sandleben, Chairman of Communications MARRC, explained what MARRC really does.
“There are people all over the middle east but specifically Afghanistan that are in dire need. A lot of them have been able to make it this far to the United States but got here with nothing,” Sandleben said. “And MARRC is a collision of private entities looking to help facilitate the resettlement of refugees from Camp Atterbury and other military installations across the country.”
While Sandleben is facilitating the communication side of MARRC, there are around a dozen more subcommittees helping in this process. There are committees working on getting furniture for when these families arrive and how to get proper nutrition.
Now the big question remains. Now that this resettlemt process has began how many refugees are expected to be relocated?
“I think we [AWAKEN/MARRC] are going to set a goal of 50 families and individuals to relocate,” Bahrami said. “We will not turn our backs away to anyone, I told them we will not do that, but for now we need to start somewhere.”
As of right now there are three to four groups in the process of resettlement. The first two being to individuals that started resettling weeks ago and a family of around nine that is getting settled in.
NewsLink Indiana was unable to sit down with these refugees as it is dangerous for them to speak with any media outlets. This is in part because many of these refugees still have family back in Afghanistan and are in danger. With the Taliban in control fear is a large factor to worry about.
However, Bahrami and Sandleben were both able to say this, “There are seven boys enrolled in school.”
The family of nine has seven sons. Their ages range from elementary school level to high school. CEO and Director of Public Education for the Muncie Community School District, Lee Ann Kwiatkowski gave a glimpse into what this is like.
“We welcomed our first Afghan family. So we set up registration at our central office, so that we had dad and all seven brothers and the family that is sponsoring them come in,” Kwiatkowski said. “We wanted to make this as seamless as possible.”
The brothers went through evaluations with the school district and Meridian Health, who the school has a partnership with. The evaluations were to determine the ability of the students and to ensure that the district has all the proper resources available to help these students.
As of Friday, November 5, the children at the high school level were able to transition into Muncie Central High school. While the younger siblings were still kept together for a few days longer.
The education does not just stop for the children. MARRC is ensuring that every refugee coming to Muncie is getting the proper education they need to successfully resettle. There are subcommittees ensured to teach refugees things Americans sometimes take for granted like: filing taxes, job searching, and English as a first language.
“We have a subcommittee set aside specifically to talk with employers in Muncie to say ‘hey do you have openings, what kind of people are you looking for,’” Sandleben said, “If we have refugees that match the description for the job we will try to set them up.”
While MARRC is hard at work Bahrami and AWAKEN are still focused on the main goal. Helping those back in Afghanistan.
While Bahrami founded MARRC through AWAKEN she hopes to step back in the coming weeks.
“I started, now I have to finish,” Bahrami said, “My main focus is on people in Afghanistan, I hope that once we get everyone [the committee] knowing the correct order of things, I hope I will be able to step back a bit.”
Last time Bahrami talked about what AWAKEN is doing back in Afghanistan everything was on hold. There was fear of Taliban attack or push back so Bahrami did not want to put anyone in danger.
But after a storm comes the sun. As of November 4, Bahrami’s schools, clinics and centers were back open and running. She got a very special video from Afghanistan.
“I received video of girls in car, going to school,” Bahrami said, “It was such a desperate situation, over 20 years of working on this and education for girls and all these girls were so excited and looking forward to their future and better life. And suddenly we just got hopeless. But there’s still some hope, I always told them don’t give up. We have some hope for better tomorrow.”
The work is not yet over. MARRC relies on donations and supplies. The donations and supplies go directly to supporting a family or individual for the first six months of resettlement. The hope being that after two months refugees will have a job and be able to have freedom.
MARRC is asking for donations of any kind. More information on how to donate and more about MARRC’s mission you can go to AWAKEN.com for more of find them on Facebook.
Contact Rebecca Rosado with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.