ST. LOUIS – At the International Institute of St. Louis (IISTL), they’ve been watching the sudden turn of events in Afghanistan and reaching out to their federal partners in the resettlement community to find out how the government is mitigating the crisis.
“We have been working in the last month to prepare ourselves to support Afghans who make it here,” says Arrey Obenson, IISTL’s president and CEO. “The only way we can do that is mobilizing resources in the community to welcome the Afghans who make it to St. Louis. So far, we’re seeing about 15 walk-ins who have made it to St. Louis.”
Working with the St. Louis mayor’s office, county executive’s office and Senator Roy Blunt’s office, Obenson and the International Institute have been trying to get his nonprofit organization that helps migrants get acclimated to St. Louis along with housing and employment, ready for an influx of Afghanis.
“We are seeing it has the potential of growing because, in the last five years, we’ve seen a significant increase in the number of Afghans migrating to St. Louis,” Obenson said.
According to Obenson, the International Institute is working with those who served in the Afghan military or helped the U.S. military. But the institute needs volunteers to help new immigrants with setup, transportation, and housing.
“We are ready and working. In terms of numbers, we’re looking at up to 1,000 people coming here in the next year…,” Obenson said. “Nobody comes here to destroy what is here. Everybody comes here because America is the envy of the world; because everybody wants to be part of America. And I say this as an immigrant about this American story, about this American journey. It’s just unfortunate that anybody would have to abandon home and find home somewhere else.”