Strengthening Afghan families to succeed in America is new focus area for LCSNW

by | Apr 21, 2023 | Family Support, Refugees & Immigrants

Lutheran Community Services Northwest is at the forefront of a new national program called Family Strengthening. Faiz Sharifi (right) is Program Coordinator and Ahmad Nesari (left) is Case Manager.

Nearly 1,000 Afghan refugees were resettled by Lutheran Community Services Northwest after their country fell to the Taliban in 2021. Our teams in Tacoma and Vancouver, Washington, and Portland, Oregon, provided housing, food and other essentials, connections to government benefits, medical screenings, volunteer support, and more.

Now we are adding another layer of assistance through a program called Family Strengthening. 

Our Tacoma refugee resettlement office is one of the first in the country to roll out this program to help Afghans cope with displacement, culture shock, and family stress. It includes skills classes for building healthy relationships, positive socio-emotional development, and a successful transition to the American way of life while maintaining their native culture.

“We can offer help from A to Z, but our main goal is to teach them how to hold their families together and not fall apart,” said Faiz Sharifi, LCSNW’s Family Strengthening Program Coordinator.

When Afghan newcomers land in a strange country having to start over from scratch, they sometimes have “a dark mind,” said Case Manager Ahmad Nesari“We show them that they should turn and see the bright future for themselves and their children.”

Faiz and Ahmad know first-hand how challenging the adjustment can be.

Faiz came to the U.S. in 2014 after serving as an interpreter for U.S. forces in Southern and Central Afghanistan, He completed his bachelor’s degree in Washington and has worked as an LCSNW case manager for two years.

Ahmad came to Washington state from Northern Afghanistan last July with his wife and four children. Back home, he worked as a bank operations manager and a dentist; after arriving here, he worked as an Amazon delivery driver before he was hired by LCSNW in March.

Both men recently traveled to Baltimore, Maryland, for a three-day Family Strengthening training session. It was hosted by Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), the national nonprofit organization through whom LCSNW receives and places refugees.

“They both returned full of energy to work for the community and our agency clients,” said Dina Prigodich, LCSNW Resettlement Program Manager.

During the training, they learned how to teach relationship-enhancing skills such as empathy, problem solving, conflict management and resiliency.

LIRS launched Family Strengthening as a pilot project with three of its partner agencies, and Tacoma is the only site on the West Coast. The others are in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Afghan clients who were resettled in the past five years are eligible, with a target participation of 100 clients at each site over the next year.

LCSNW is excited for this opportunity to strengthen Afghan families for long-term success.