In the days following the collapse of the Afghan government and the mass exodus of Americans and US-allied Afghans, World Relief Durham is preparing to welcome in an influx of refugees in the coming weeks.
The group works with Afghan refugees as they either select or are assigned Raleigh and Durham as resettlement options under the U.S. Department of State's special immigrant visa program.
"It's been painful to watch," said World Relief Durham director Adam Clark. "We've all seen the very scary footage of people grabbing airplanes and trying to escape cities in long lines of cars. This is certainly an unusual situation, an exceptional set of circumstance where evacuation is really necessary."
Clark said the situation is usually different in the sense that a refugee's arrival takes much longer than what the nation is witnessing right now. His organization is preparing to welcome more refugees arriving within the next few weeks, but stopped shy of predicting how many.
"We are preparing locally to receive some of these families that you're hearing about," Clark said. "We have already received some and we will be receiving more families -- welcoming them here in the Triangle."
Under the US Department of State's SIV program for Afghans and Iraqis, applicants have 25 cities to choose from or be designated as resettlement options. Among those options are Durham and Raleigh.
World Relief Durham provides refugees with housing, furniture, and educates them on the culture of the Triangle and the United States. Clark said it's his duty that America upholds its end of the bargain in taking care of the Afghans who helped the United States against the Taliban over the last 20 years.
"(Afghans) cannot afford to wait for days. They need to be evacuated quickly," said Clark. "So we're urging anyone who's in the (Biden) administration that has the power to accelerate the number of evacuees and the rate at which they're being evacuated to do so. Because that's what we've committed to doing as a nation. And it really is a matter of life or death for many of these families and allies who have helped us overseas."
Clark said World Relief Durham can only do so much due to delays with the SIV program.
"Our hands are tied here locally," Clark said. "We can't accelerate the rate at which people are brought here. We can just prepare. And we're excited!"
If you're interested in helping, World Relief Durham has volunteer opportunities available along with other ways you can monetarily help in resettlement efforts.
"It's very fresh. There's still time if you haven't responded to do something about this," said Clark. "Because this is not just overseas. This is in our community. This is here in the Triangle. And in many cases, this is us. There are many Afghan North Carolinians. Many Afghan North Carolinians that have called Triangle home for a long time. They have Afghan children in our schools, Afghan professionals in our companies. So, the suffering that we're seeing on TV is personal for us; it's personal to our community. And it matters for North Carolina to step up and show that we care by raising our voices and finding a way to demonstrate welcome and advocate for people who are suffering right now."