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Supporting Afghan Oregonians

Posted by Social Venture Partners Portland

SVP Portland is committed to elevating community voices, particularly those that are or historically have been marginalized, and are closest to the issues we seek to impact. Therefore, we seek to better leverage our networks and influence — our underutilized social capital. What follows is a Partner sharing a community need being addressed by our Community Partner, the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO) — and how you can help. Partners play an important role in supporting Community Partner fundraising efforts through direct giving along with collective fundraising through their networks. 

Like many of you, I have been closely following the crisis in Afghanistan as it unfolds, twists, turns, ebbs, and flows. While it’s halfway around the world, 20 years old, and yet another crisis for our beleaguered spirits, I am moved by the horror of the situation experienced by people on the ground there.

I also realize that the crisis is not just “over there.” My neighbor who works for Mercy Corps has been trying to get their team members out safely and back home or to a new home. I also know that SVP’s longtime Community Partner, IRCO, is a lifeline in situations like these, so I called them up to see where I could help. What I learned was that we very much have a crisis here at home, too.

IRCO has local staff that were traveling in Afghanistan at the time. After being detained in Kabul, they were allowed to fly back to the U.S. but were held in Philadelphia. They didn’t have paid-time-off and couldn’t be paid on the restrictive project funding IRCO is contracted to perform, so they couldn’t support their families and keep their benefits here at home. To alleviate the burden to their families, IRCO paid them out of flexible, unrestricted (general operating) grants from sources and partners like SVP. We are grateful that they are now back in Portland and working on staff again.

As a recently designated reception and placement site for new arrivals under the U.S. Committee for Refugees & Immigrants, IRCO is working with local resettlement partners to think through covering immediate needs and advocating for more support–staff time that also isn’t covered under traditional restricted grants. With filing fees for humanitarian parole close to $750 per application in even the simplest cases, money for legal services is also draining the coffers. Most recently, IRCO was awarded additional support from M.J. Murdock Trust and Meyer Memorial Trust to provide essential services to new arrivals in our state. 

I’ve learned in my interactions with IRCO over the years that there are immigrants and refugees from every part of the globe here in Portland, even if we don’t always see them day in and day out. Afghan refugees are certainly not new to our area either. IRCO says they have been arriving since the 1970s and make up one of the largest demographics placed here in recent years. 

My husband David and I are moved by these needs and, frankly, excited at the prospect of further diversifying and enriching our community with new neighbors from Afghanistan. While we may not be able to greet them when they arrive or tend their trauma with patient, loving care, we can help IRCO be that foundation and caregiver for us. To that end, we’re giving $25,000 to replenish IRCO’s general fund. This gift will be matched in kind by support from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, giving IRCO twice as much capacity to provide the essential services to address immediate humanitarian needs. 

The Afghan exodus is a time-critical, humanitarian crisis and SVP Partners, at our best, are responsive to community needs and thoughtful about where best to invest our resources. In this case, giving to a Community Partner who is at the center of this effort is an easy, clear choice. 

You can learn more about IRCO’s response to the crisis and many ways to help in this missive they sent last week: IRCO 9/3/2021 Newsletter. Here are a few ways mentioned there…the same support IRCO needs every day from community members like us: supplies, donations and awareness.

  • If you are able to make a monetary donation, the biggest needs currently are for “Afghanistan War Refugee Support” and “Legal Services.”
  • To host a supply drive, look here at the ongoing supply needs list
  • Consider buying gift cards from these local grocery stores owned by the Afghan and Greater Middle East community so people can buy culturally-specific food. Items are preferred over kits, as we can share the resources by different household needs. 
  • See an Online Wish List. Email fundraise@IRCO.org to arrange dropping off any items or if you have any questions.
  • And many advocacy opportunities are listed in the newsletter.

Mark Holloway, SVP Portland Partner

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