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Champaign Refugee Center welcomes Afghan families and individuals

Passengers walk from the domestic terminal at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021.

CHAMPAIGN – ​​The Refugee Center helped more than 50 people from Kabul settle in the Champaign-Urbana area after the Taliban took over that area in August of 2021. 

They continue to help their clients settle in their new homes in different ways. One of which includes obtaining a job at Guardian West manufacturing.

Lisa Wilson is the Executive Director of The Refugee Center. She said they were able to cover uniform costs with the help of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.

Wilson said language translators also helped them overcome language barriers.

“It was important to keep the lines of communication open, that we could relate to our interpreters, any messages or information that they needed to relate to the clients,” Wilson said.

Translators were also at the Guardian West when their clients first started to interpret and tell them basic information, according to Wilson. 

Yet, the closing of government offices during the pandemic has hampered their efforts to help their clients. 

Wilson said the local social security office finally opened to the public after being closed for two years.

She said to obtain a social security card, a person must make an appointment in person.

“After many emails and phone calls, we worked with the local social security office to get our clients in, we made it very clear that this was absolute, you know, crucial that our clients could not start working without these numbers.”

She said she hopes these efforts will make their clients feel like members of the community.

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Luis Velazquez-Perez

Luis Velazquez-Perez

Luis Velazquez- Perez recently earned a B.S. in Journalism with a minor in Latina/Latino studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is now pursuing his Master's in Journalism. Aside as an intern at Illinois Newsroom, Velazquez-Perez has written for The Daily Illini, Cicero Independiente and C-U CitizenAccess. He aspires to be a bilingual public radio journalist

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