© 2022 Iowa Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

New refugee resettlement agency launches awareness campaign for incoming Afghans

Jose Luis Magana
AP file
Army Pfc. Kimberly Hernandez gives a high-five to a girl evacuated from Kabul, Afghanistan, before boarding a bus after they arrived at Washington Dulles International Airport. U.S. religious groups of many faiths are gearing up to assist the thousands of incoming refugees.

Iowa is expected to help hundreds of Afghans resettle in the state. And with the increase of arrivals this year, Lutheran Services in Iowa (LSI) is launching a campaign next week to raise awareness for incoming Afghan refugees to Iowa.

For the first time, LSI will host its series of events called "Welcome the World." Nancy Strutzenberg, LSI's director of philanthropy for Refugee and Immigrant Services, said the agency has received institutional support from its resettlement partners and also the community.

“It's just really heartening to see in such a, a world that's divided by so many things, that this is something that's bringing everybody together," she said.

LSI had offered resettlement support from 1947 to 2010, but then transitioned to focusing solely on post-resettlement services like language and citizenship classes, among other resources.

The organization recently completed its training to once again resettle refugees across the state.

“With the increase in arrivals this year from all over the world. More specifically, with the humanitarian situation and emergency situation from our Afghan allies. It was important for us to get back into resettlement," she said. "We've thought about doing it for a long while. And this was kind of the the impetus to go ahead and do it."

Strutzenberg said LSI has the capacity to resettle up to 300 refugees in central Iowa, including Des Moines, and around 150 in Sioux City. There’s room in the budget to resettle about 50 to 75 more in other parts of the state.

Des Moines, being Iowa's largest metro area and the home of one of LSI's headquarters, was expected to be a location to resettle new arrivals. As for Sioux City, LSI leadership found it to be fitting for new Iowans after months of research.

It's affordable, Strutzenberg said, and "the people of the community are ready. They're ready for it. There is a very, very diverse population in Sioux City that I was unaware of, but it's very diverse. And they're, they're ready. They're wanting to welcome people there. So that was a big determination, also, is if the community is ready."

The week-long event starting Monday will consist of awareness campaigns and educational activities to prepare Iowans for refugees from around the world.

LSI's Welcome the World Week

Monday, Nov. 8: LSI Educate and Empower Day - learn about refugees from the experts at 7 p.m. at Drake University's Sussman Theater. It's free and open to the public.

Tuesday, Nov. 9: LSI Corporate Connections Day - recognize partners and volunteers who work to make Iowa a more welcoming place.

Wednesday, Nov. 10: LSI Action for Allies Day - a donation campaign to raise money to help resettle new arrivals and invite friends to like LSI and other refugee resettlement agencies' social media.

Thursday, Nov. 11: Phone a Friend Day - LSI staff will call and text community members to raise awareness for resettlement.

Friday, Nov. 12: Dine and Discover Day - Food trucks will be in the LSI parking lot in Des Moines from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 13 and Sunday Nov. 14: Prayer for Displaced Persons Day - faith leaders across Iowa will lead a prayer to refugees all over the world.

Kassidy was a reporter based in Des Moines