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Afghan refugees arriving in Wichita need help with transportation and more

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More than 300 Afghan refugees have arrived in Wichita this year, and the organization helping them resettle is asking for volunteer help.

A local nonprofit is asking for volunteers as it works to help 400 Afghan refugees resettle in Wichita by next February.

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Wichita is anticipating that 365 Afghan refugees will already be settled in Wichita by the end of this year.

Sarah Terlouw, IRC Wichita’s executive director, said the city has seen an influx of Afghan refugees since October – months after the Biden administration began withdrawing United States troops from Afghanistan.

She and her staff, along with volunteers, work to get refugees connected with basic necessities like housing, food, schools and employment opportunities. Volunteers can help the IRC prepare meal kits, offer English lessons and more.

“The other huge volunteer need is transport,” Terlouw said.

“They (refugees) need to get medical checkups. In many cases, they haven’t had medical care in a long time, if ever.”

About 550 refugees from countries besides Afghanistan are also set to arrive in Wichita between now and the end of September 2022. Terlouw said her organization is seeing about 10 times as many refugees compared to 2020, resettling nearly 1,000 this year.

“The city’s been very welcoming, very supportive,” Terlouw said. “We’ve just found that the community in Wichita has been incredibly warm and welcoming.”

The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan marked an end to one of the longest occupations in American history, nearly 20 years after the U.S. invasion in 2021. Brown University estimates more than 176,000 people died as a result of the occupation, including an estimated 46,000 civilians.

Afghan refugees represent one of the largest populations of refugees in the world. The United Nations estimates nearly 6 million Afghans have been displaced as a result of conflict, violence and persecution in Afghanistan.

Those who are interested in volunteering for the local IRC can visit rescue.org/Wichita.

Daniel Caudill is a general assignment reporter for KMUW. He was a reporter, photographer and digital content manager for The Derby Informer and an editor and reporter for The Sunflower. In the spring of 2020, Daniel helped cover the legislative session in Topeka as an intern for the Kansas News Service. You can follow him on Twitter @CaudillKMUW.