West Newbury church needs help securing van for Afghan refugees | News

WEST NEWBURY — West Newbury Congregational Church continues to raise money for a minivan for the family of refugees it has sponsored from war-torn Afghanistan.

Pastor Manny Cumplido of the Congregational Church on Main Street and a group of dedicated volunteers want to raise $45,000 to purchase a safe minivan or other vehicle that will allow the family of seven to travel all together.

“All the funds that we raise will go toward helping this family, first with a vehicle and if there is any left over, to their food, clothing and rent,” Cumplido said. To date, the effort has raised $890 of the needed $45,000.

The group officially formed into a Neighborhood Support Team — or NST — late last year. In early January the organization with whom the NST had partnered learned that a couple and their five children, ages 1 to 10, would arrive at Boston Logan International Airport the following night. They were arriving from a military fort in the Southwest where they had lived under a tent that accommodated 2,000. They speak only Dari — the most widely spoken language in Afghanistan — but the oldest child picked up some English on the military base. For security reasons, the family’s names and photos are not being made public.

Before an Afghan family can be assigned, the resettlement organization requires the NST to locate an acceptable apartment and raise $12,000 for rent, furniture, clothing and doctors’ appointments. The federal government kicks in $1,225 per person and the family can count on $730 per month for SNAP food and public assistance. Health insurance is covered through MassHealth. West Newbury NST estimates expenses for one refugee family to live in this area will reach nearly $47,000 annually including costs for relocation, rent and apartment set up.

“Many folks don’t realize this, but a resettlement agency formally only helps a new family for three months. We are praying that some of us are able to form long-term friendships where we can simply be there for them over the course of one to two years,” said Cumplido, stressing that fundraising is key to helping make these wishes a reality.

In addition to seeking both large and small private donations, sponsorships from a local bank, and contributions from supermarkets, the group is partnering on fundraisers with small businesses in the area. One West Newbury couple contributed $25,000 to the cause.

The NST has secured the family a year-long lease in a multistory apartment in Newburyport along with furniture, clothing and supplies. They are helping the family acclimate — getting the children into schools, helping with job search efforts, and assisting the family accesses medical care. A vehicle that they all can fit into would be a huge help, the group says.

“Five children take up a lot of space,” said Jennifer Germain, who is spearheading the effort. “There are volunteers who are putting car seats in their own vans and helping to take this family to the doctors, food shopping and whatever else they need.”

“The family are hardworking, proud people and although they are extremely grateful for all the help, they would like to pull their own weight. They are working towards getting their driver’s licenses and jobs and then they need a vehicle,” said Germain, “This family has what seems to be impossible mountains to climb and obstacles to overcome but with our help, they will make it.”

Neighborhood Support Team notes the benefits to the Greater Newburyport community of helping the Afghanis resettle here. The community’s diversity is strengthened by including people who hail from a different world experience. Because many of the refugees are people military who stood by the US military during the war in Afghanistan, the community has a humanitarian and patriotic duty to reach out to them in their time of need, per the NST.

“We feel a moral obligation to help those who have helped some of our families in a distant land,” said Cumplido.

Contact Beth Wilcoxson at elizabeth.wilcoxson@comcat.net to learn more about how to make a donation to purchase a large vehicle.

This fundraiser is separate from pooled fundraising efforts that several other churches in Newburyport have been conducting.

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