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Lansing schools, service organizations welcome Afghan refugees

Lansing School.jfif
Kevin Lavery / WKAR-MSU
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Social service agencies and the Lansing School District are working together to help resettle refugees from Afghanistan. 

Michigan is federally approved to receive about 1,600 Afghan refugees.

Lansing has a long tradition of integrating refugees from a number of countries, and so far this year, 105 Afghans have arrived in mid-Michigan.

Lansing schools superintendent Ben Shuldiner says volunteers are helping the district as interpreters and cultural liaisons.

He says the schools also screen students for signs of trauma.

“There’s a long intake process of making sure that we know who these families are, how these children are and making sure that we support them,” Shuldiner said. “Yes, trauma is a big thing, and we want to make sure that we’re not just helping them academically, but we’re helping them socially and emotionally as well.”

Judy Harris, director of refugee services at St. Vincent Catholic Charities in Lansing, credits a new group called the Afghan Association of Michigan for its work in helping to ensure a smooth process.

“So they’ve been helping us with cultural understanding and interpretation,” Harris said. “They had a wonderful tea party for the refugees a couple of weeks ago, which involved all the Afghans who’ve been here for a long time as well as all of the newcomers. So that mixed everybody up and really made everybody feel welcome.”

Speaking in Lansing on Thursday, former Delaware governor and White House refugee coordinator Jack Markell said mid-Michigan can serve as a national model for Afghan resettlement.