Welcome.US After One Year

In response to the enormous need for resettlement of tens of thousands of Afghan evacuees, a coalition of organizations (including many affiliated with the Church) came together a year ago, in partnership with the US government, to launch what it describes as "a new national initiative built to inspire, mobilize, and empower Americans from all corners of the country to welcome and support those seeking refuge here. We operate on the evidence that direct participation with newcomers transforms both the welcomer and those being welcomed. Our ultimate ambition is for every American community – and the nation as a whole – to have the resources and willingness to welcome newcomers, now and in the future."

Welcome.US is not a resettlement agency, nor a replacement for our traditional model of resettlement. Through its wealth of resources and a connection hub, however, it does provide an effective alternative, allowing for more communities to participate in this important work of refugee resettlement. This has proved especially useful for our government's Uniting For Ukraine program, as this government program relies on private sponsorship.

One big difference between refugee resettlement with Welcome.US and our traditional resettlement system is geography. Resettlement agencies work with the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) on government contracts to provide all of the resettlement services for refugees. Most have relationships with support organizations, and some partner with cosponsor groups like congregations. However, by law, agencies must resettle clients within a 50-100 mile radius of their office, depending on certain factors. Exceptions can be granted by the state coordinator. This restriction ensures that clients have access to the agency personnel and services they need. It is a good policy and practice, but it does limit who can help, as most communities are outside of that radius. Welcome.US allows anyone anywhere to donate resources and/or serve as a sponsor for Afghans and Ukrainians, and potentially other refugees in the future.

At the WCC, we still recommend pursuing a cosponsorship with an agency if you are able. They are better situated to provide professional case management and have the experience and resources to ensure a successful placement and new start for the client. However, given the growing crisis of forced human displacement and the stated goal of 125,000 annual refugee admissions, Welcome.US may be an opportunity worth exploring.

As Welcome.US marks a year in operation, they have put together an impressive page showing the impact of communities, businesses, organizations, and individuals working together. Spend some time learning more about the coalition and, more importantly, enjoy seeing what can be accomplished when we work together!

Rev. Peder Johanson (he/his)
Volunteer Coordinator, Afghan Refugee Response
"One Year of Welcoming"

Watch this short video for a brief overview of Welcome.US. Consider sharing it in worship as a way to introduce your congregation to possible participation.
"Stories of Welcome"

This 5-6 minute video offers more detail about the coalition and opportunities for participation.

Visit Welcome.US for more resources to share within your church and community.

Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition’s Be-a-Buddy Program, a project to connect re-settled Afghan children and teens with American peers, starts again Oct. 1 with its original successful formula and a new component—a sewing circle for Afghan and American women.

How it works
MMWC’s Be-a-Buddy Program consists of workshops from 1 – 4 p.m. every other Saturday beginning Oct. 1 at Hamilton High School, 6215 W. Warnimont Ave., Milwaukee. Afghan and American youth, most ages 10 – 16, will join together in recreation, reading and team building activities, games, sports and art. “We will do some tutoring and homework, and focus on English,” said Youth Development Director, Rawand Yazaw. 

A new component to the program will create parallel opportunities for Afghan and American women to make new friends through sewing lessons. An instructor from Hamilton High School will teach sewing to Afghan women and the American volunteers who join in the activity. Just like the program for youth, the sewing program creates opportunities for participants to make connections, Yazaw said. “It’s not just about sewing; it’s also about getting to know other moms.” 
MMWC is recruiting “Buddy” volunteers from 10 – 16 years old for the youth program and women to participate in the sewing circle.

To volunteer, please call the MMWC at (414) 727-4900.
Or use the volunteer sign-up link,
or contact Yazaw via email at: [email protected].

Ongoing Needs for Afghans in Wisconsin

Do you know someone who can translate Pashto? The Catholic Multicultural Center in Madison is in need of additional translators as they prepare legal immigration/asylum applications for Afghans. If you can help them or refer someone to them, they'd greatly appreciate it! Contact:

Carmel A. Capati, J.D.
Managing Attorney | Catholic Multicultural Center
1862 Beld Street | Madison WI 53713
Direct Phone: 608-405-1703 (talk or text)

Resettlement of Afghans from processing centers abroad continues through the organized system of resettlement, managed by the federal government. Prior to the beginning of this second wave, there were about 50,000 Afghans from the August '21 evacuation still being housed in military installments overseas, known as "lily pads." They are now arriving in Wisconsin via the normal refugee pipeline, but are still being resettled through the separate Afghan Placement and Assistance Program. Consider how you and your church can assist the nearest agency in meeting these needs. Reach out to us if you need help facilitating those conversations.

Affordable Housing is a need everywhere, but particularly for refugees. One issue is the difficulty in finding adequate housing upon arrival.
  • We are beginning to explore ways that churches might assist in the temporary housing and care of families upon arrival to allow more time for permanent housing to be found. If you have any interest in this conversation, or if you know of resources in the resettlement communities (empty parsonage, member-owned rentals that go vacant from time to time, etc) please let us know.

Dental Care is such an important component of our overall health, and many Afghans have had serious dental needs upon resettlement. Unfortunately, Badgercare reimbursement rates are so low for emergency dental services that this care has been difficult to get. WCC donated $5,000 to a dental fund at LSS last Spring and are exploring further support to this important cause. Please consider making a gift to our program or holding a fundraiser at your church to help cover emergency dental care for Afghans in Wisconsin. Your proceeds can go directly to the nearest resettlement agency or through our Afghan Refugee Response program.

Volunteer Opportunities
We are still looking for groups interested in cleaning/painting apartments for refugees.

Can you organize a Mini Service Trip to Milwaukee?
LSS has a partner with 3-5 more apartments for future refugee arrivals in need of cleaning and painting. With the hiring shortages currently being felt across the economy, these units sit empty and unavailable until the work can be done. Paint, some supplies, and lunch will be provided, but volunteers are needed to prepare these new homes.

The apartments are 2-bedroom (about 5 rooms total) and groups must plan to complete their unit in a single day or over two consecutive days. 8-12 people is recommended. If you or your leaders would like to discuss this opportunity further, contact Rev. Peder Johanson.

Pictured above is a group of youth and adults from St. Dunstan Episcopal Church in Madison. They made a weekend of visiting Milwaukee, meeting with resettlement professionals and other community organizations, preparing an apartment for refugees arriving through LSS Resettlement, and learning about some of the cultures these new neighbors bring to our state. Thank you, St. Dunstan!

Resettlement Agencies, Coalitions, and Communities in Wisconsin
North West Wisconsin - Welcoming New Neighbors, an interfaith community coalition based in Eau Claire, is working with Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin to resettle Afghans in Eau Claire. Contact Rev. Peder Johanson to be connected with their leadership.

East-Central Wisconsin - Catholic Charities in Green Bay is resettling Afghans in and around Green Bay. World Relief is resettling Afghans in Appleton and Oshkosh and offer several ways to support the effort there.

Central Wisconsin - New Beginnings for Refugees is a new resettlement agency located in Wausau, under the direction of ECDC. They are resettling families in and around Wausau, including Stevens Point, Marshfield, and Wisconsin Rapids.

South West Wisconsin - Southwestern Wisconsin Community Action Program, Inc (SWCAP) is working with Church World Service to resettle Afghan families in and around Platteville. For more information and to discuss how your church can support their work, contact Rev. Peder Johanson.

South Central Wisconsin - Jewish Social Services is a resettlement agency located in Madison. With the support of volunteers through Open Doors For Refugees, they are resettling families and individuals in and around Madison. Visit opendoorsforrefugees.org to learn how you and/or your congregation to volunteer.

South East Wisconsin - Lutheran Social Services is resettling and supporting Afghans primarily in Milwaukee and within a 100 mile radius. They rely on cosponsors and volunteers for much of the support to the resettlement effort and care of refugees. International Institute of Wisconsin is also resettling Afghans in Milwaukee. The Milwaukee Muslim Women's Coalition provides services and support to the refugee communities in Milwaukee.


For education and worship resources, volunteer opportunities, and to give a donation towards the WCC effort in helping refugees from Afghanistan, visit our website.
We will be updating these resources as the situation evolves.

This work is possible because of generous donations from judicatories, churches, and individuals.
Choose "Afghan Refugee Relief" in the fund drop-down menu.

Wisconsin Council of Churches | www.wichurches.org
30 W. Mifflin St, Suite 602, Madison, WI 53703
(608) 837-3108 | [email protected]