Twin Cities, MN
Approximately 75,000 Afghans have arrived in the United States since the summer of 2021, when the Taliban takeover sparked a mass evacuation. In the wake of this mass arrival and in partnership with the State of Minnesota, Alight stepped forward to set up homes for arriving Afghan families.
We consulted with Minnesota's existing Afghan community and worked in collaboration with other MN service organizations to create homes where families could feel a sense of stability, protection, dignity, and joy. Since then, our work with our new Afghan neighbors has evolved into community programming and additional services to help families make connections and settle into their lives in Minnesota.
During Alight’s initial Welcome Home Initiative we set up 131 fully furnished homes stocked with specific cultural and religious items to provide a sense of comfortability and warmth for newly arrived Afghans. We knew that after months in transition, a dignified space of their own would help each family member settle into their new community.
With amazing support from donors and a 500-person strong volunteer corps, we stocked homes with everything from shower curtains and bathmats to mattresses and bedding. We filled fridges and pantries with staple foods and flavors from home. We made sure every household had a TV, computer and their Wi-Fi set up. Each time we handed over the keys to a home, we hoped a family would walk through their door for the first time feeling cared for, empowered, and ready to build a new life.
Welcome Home Market
The Welcome Home Market: With a surplus of home goods from our home setups and donations continuing to come in, we wanted to do something for those whose homes we hadn't set up. So, we opened a Welcome Home Market in our Brooklyn Park warehouse. We invited families we hadn’t served to come in and shop for the home items they needed, free of charge. Guests left the market with items that reminded them of Afghanistan such as rugs, pressure cookers, tea kettles, Qurans, Dari/ Pashto story books and special Afghan treats. Afterwards we opened the market to the entire Afghan newcomer community - in total, 925 people shopped. The market allowed our team to get to know the Afghan community better and understand what kind of support they still needed.
We created the Ask Alight WhatsApp Group as a safe and confidential referral hub for the Afghan community to reach out with questions. Our Afghan Program Lead, Sonia, and Community Guides, Obaid and Habib answer questions and provide referrals. We also share community resources and promote our community events through Ask Alight.
While having a place to live holds great importance for displaced communities, we know that feeling at home requires familiarity and connection. We know that Afghans who feel most rooted, have a sense of community around them. To help families establish a life and envision a future in Minnesota, we co-designed community programs with and for Afghan women and youth.
Women’s Sewing Social
Strengthening social ties within the Afghan community is critical. Many Afghan women are struggling with feelings of isolation and loneliness. We asked how we could help and the women requested a space where they could gather together, sew, and be in community. The sewing social is a space for friendship and conversation. We will offer mental health support with professional mental health facilitators holding group sessions and offering one-on-one support as needed.
There are currently 30 women in the sewing social group that are accompanied by 20 children under the age of 5. Alight provides childcare, transportation, sewing machines, sewing materials and tools, lunch, and interpreters.
A Taste of Minnesota Field Trips
It can be hard to get to know a new place, especially if your access to transportation is limited or you don't have a confident command of English. Alight is hosting monthly field trips for Afghan women and youth to experience the best landmarks and events Minnesota has to offer.
Our youth trips are held on the weekends, while Afghan women enjoy weekday trips. Alight provides transportation, admission, lunch, and interpreters. Fieldtrips offer a chance for the community to connect to the people and places around them and get to know the place where they're building a life.
During Ramadan, we partnered with the Blake School and other community organizations to host an Iftar event for 300 people including members of the Afghan community, and our wonderful volunteers and partners. We shared a traditional Afghan meal and were overjoyed to see family members reuniting alongside new friendships being formed. Our Afghan guests were provided transportation and childcare for the event. We also shared gifts such as clothing, giftcards, and groceries.
We are proud to support other local organizations involved in helping Afghan newcomers feel at home in Minnesota. Alight's upcoming collaborations include a Women of Color Leadership Series at St. Catherine's University and the Minnesota Master Swimming Community's (seperate) programs for Afghan men and women which begins in June.