Goodwin University and the University of Bridgeport offer housing, education help to new arrivals from Afghanistan
Two Connecticut universities have committed to helping people fleeing the chaos in Afghanistan.
In a letter to President Joe Biden sent Thursday, leaders of Goodwin University in East Hartford and the University of Bridgeport offered Afghan refugees assistance with language skills and access to work and career programs.
The University of Bridgeport also agreed to allow refugees to temporarily stay in a 140-bed dormitory that is not currently occupied by students.
“It has been heartbreaking to see the photos and video of Afghans desperate to find passage to America that have filled the news this week, and we feel a deep sense of responsibility to assist however we can,” said Mark Scheinberg, president of Goodwin University. “If we have learned anything from the recent challenges of the pandemic, it is that we all need to look out for one another, and we quickly realized we could help.”
In addition to housing, the University of Bridgeport is offering several programs to help the Afghans assimilate to life in America. The school’s English Language Institute provides non-native English speakers with intensive basic language and applied English language skills. The University also has several work and professional career programs to place refugees in jobs as quickly as possible.
“UB has a long history of serving international students in a diverse, accepting, and supportive environment,” said Danielle Wilken, president of the University of Bridgeport. “This along with our other capabilities puts us in a unique position to support these refugees right now, during the time when they need it most as they begin to carve out new lives in America.”
An official with one of the state’s leading refugee resettlement agencies said the assistance offered by the two schools could provide an important boost to existing efforts.
“We would find this offer from these universities (potentially) VERY helpful,” said Ann O’Brien, director of community engagement at Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services, or IRIS, in New Haven.
“Imagine if we received 10 families in one week and couldn’t find permanent housing for two weeks? A university housing offer would be a godsend in that situation,’’ O’Brien said.
Over the past five years, IRIS has helped more than 500 people from Afghanistan settle in the U.S. In the past two weeks, the resettlement agency has handled four additional cases from Afghanistan.
“We just have no way of knowing how many we will receive or when,’’ O’Brien said. “The housing would be most helpful if it were near IRIS staff and the family members and former colleagues many of the newly arrived Afghans already have in Connecticut.”
Thousands of Afghans who worked with the U.S. military over the past two decades are trying to leave the country following the Taliban’s takeover. On Friday, Biden pledged to help those Afghans who face grave danger under the Taliban.
Two Connecticut congressman praised the schools for offering to help the new arrivals from Afghanistan.
“We have a moral obligation to do everything we can to help Afghans escaping the Taliban,’’ said Rep. John Larson, a Democrat whose district includes Goodwin University. “As the United States government works to evacuate Afghans to safety, our communities must be prepared to welcome our brave allies. I applaud today’s announcement that Goodwin University [and the] University of Bridgeport are offering to open their doors and house refugees. I hope more institutions in our communities do the same.”
Rep. Jim Himes, a Democrat whose district includes Bridgeport, said he is proud of the schools for stepping up and offering aid.
“Our core American values require that we welcome people fleeing tyranny, violence and injustice from around the world. The story of immigration, refuge and opportunity is quintessentially American and is the mechanism through which we renew the energy and spirit of our nation,” Himes said.