Welcome by the numbers
- Since August , the U.S. has welcomed over 74,000 Afghans forced to flee their country. The evacuation came after years of record-low refugee arrivals under the Trump Administration
- The IRC deployed over 1,000 staff and volunteers to support this endeavor, helping welcome Afghans at government-run “Safe Havens” throughout the U.S. .
- In 25 cities across the country, the IRC also works with Afghans and other refugees to help them find housing, employment, health care, education and other essentials.
For almost a decade, Tony and Emmy award-winning actor Mandy Patinkin (“Evita,” “Homeland,” “The Princess Bride”) and his wife, actress and writer Kathryn Grody, have been working as International Rescue Committee (IRC) Ambassadors to bring global attention to the challenges refugees face around the world.
“The greatest gift of being connected to refugees is how they teach me to live, how they affect my soul, because they have come from such unimaginable conflict, unimaginable situations of pain and suffering, and they go on,” Patinkin said. “They take care of their children, they build homes, and they never give up. They are teachers of our lives.”
Patinkin and Grody recently sat down with two IRC staff members in Elizabeth, NJ, to learn more about their experiences and how the IRC helps refugees resettle in the U.S. They spoke with Diana Mbogoni, who arrived in the U.S. from Kenya 21 years ago and is now a resettlement program manager. They also spoke with Shir Zad Sarbaz, an Afghan refugee who just arrived in the U.S. in December 2021. Shortly after he arrived, Shir Zad volunteered to help the IRC translate for other Afghan refugees. He recently became a full-time caseworker.
The interviews have been edited and condensed.
Photo: Brianna Rapp for the IRC
Mandy Patinkin: Diana, what does that mean to be a resettlement program manager? What does your job entail?
Diana Mbogoni: I oversee three programs under the resettlement program: reception and placement for refugees who just arrived; the matching grant program, which is an early employment program from the federal government; and a federal program for case management to help people with intensive medical needs navigate the medical system.
From October 2021 to mid-April, we served a total of 354 people out of our New Jersey office, most of them Afghans evacuated during Operation Allies Welcome.
Photo: Brianna Rapp …….