Richmond nonprofit helps refugees transition to life in U.S.

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - There are more than 2,000 refugees in Richmond and hundreds of them gathered at the Tuckahoe YMCA in Henrico County on Saturday getting connected with vital resources in honor of World Refugee Day.

ReEstablish Richmond provided local resources like education, healthcare, transportation, legal services and jobs to people who are acclimating to life in an unfamiliar place.

Many of the refugees escape from war-torn countries and Kate Ayers, executive director of ReEstablish Richmond, said the nonprofit was established to help them resettle in their new homes.

"Five years ago, we decided that we wanted to recognize refugees in Richmond by providing community resources fair where we bring all the information that newcomers may need," Ayers said.

Soles4Souls, a Tennessee-based nonprofit, partnered with ReEstablish Richmond to donate hundreds of re-purposed shoes to refugees in need.

"All the barriers that come with coming to a new place - not speaking the language, maybe not coming from a country or culture where you're familiar with how things work," Ayers said.

ReEstablish Richmond works with all refugees from infants to 65 years old from countries like Afghanistan, Bhutan, Iraq, Myanmar, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria, among others.

Last year, Re-Establish Richmond took in more than 600 refugees, but Ayers said that number is down to between 150 and 170 so far this year due to changes made by the Trump administration.

Many of the 2,000-plus refugees currently living in Richmond still need help getting access to basic resources, despite how long they may have been here.

"Even after they been here two, three, four, sometimes even five years, people continue to need support," Ayers said.

They include people like Abdul Hameed Ahmadi, an Afghani refugee who served in the U.S. Army for 12 years as an interpreter. He came to the U.S. in 2015 to escape the violence in his home country.

Even after being in the U.S. for more than three years, Ahmadi is still overcoming barriers to American life. He and many others are thankful to be in a community where they have an opportunity to flourish.

"Our lives were in great danger. The insurgents were attempting to kill anyone supporting the U.S. forces, so I felt that I didn't feel safe in Afghanistan," Ahmadi said. "There's a lot of optimism here. I can well support my family, and I can build a better life for me and my children."

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