How Dallas is helping Afghan children settle into their new schools
It’s been a year since America’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan. Since then, nearly 1,500 Afghans have settled in Dallas and surrounding towns. A refugee ministry in the immigrant neighborhood of Vickery Meadow reported that at a recent diaper distribution event, the number of Afghan families exceeded the number of Burmese families for the first time.
According to figures compiled by refugee advocates, about half of the refugees who settled in the Dallas area this year are children. They could use some help from their new neighbors as they prepare to start the school year.
Many Afghan families arrived en masse in the fall and winter, having stayed in US military camps where they waited to be vetted. A shortage of affordable housing in Dallas and other U.S. cities has complicated the work of refugee resettlement agencies, and some North Texas families have moved into short-term rentals and extended-stay hotels while waiting for something. more permanent.
About 150 Afghan students were attending ISD schools in Dallas in the spring. At Richardson ISD, more than 100 Afghan children were enrolled last year.
Dallas ISD officials said it’s difficult to predict how many people will enroll this fall. Regardless, the district has ongoing support services for refugee students and anticipates new arrivals, said Ileana Gomez Murillo, head of the bilingual ESL department.
Many Dallas refugee students enroll in schools located in or near Vickery Meadow, a neighborhood where school staff compare their campuses to a mini-UN. But Gomez Murillo said refugees are settling all over the city, including north of Oak Cliff and east of Dallas.
The district’s Refugee Support Services program follows students for five years to provide comprehensive services, Gomez Murillo said. This means helping their families with things like translations, accessing mental health care, and the basics like reading a school calendar and report card.
Dallas ISD also prepares teachers in schools where children enroll. Zeljka Ravlija, Refugee Services Program Coordinator, talks to teachers about children’s cultural practices, dress codes, greeting styles and religious traditions.
“Refugee children have many challenges before they come to the United States, and when they come here they have a new set of challenges. Poverty and so on,” said Ravlija, who came to the United States in 1999 as a refugee from the former Yugoslavia “But despite these challenges, they are making amazing progress even within a year.”
Neighborhood organizations such as churches and community centers are also a crucial support system. For example, the Northwest Community Center in Vickery Meadow offers an after-school program to help children with homework and also offers private lessons on weekends.
Resettlement agencies, schools and neighborhood groups are constantly recruiting volunteers to help refugees with a range of tasks. Dallas is a welcoming city and children are the ones who need our hospitality the most.
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