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Refugee resettlement process through eye of their mentor

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Posted at 10:21 AM, Sep 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-05 13:21:18-04

PHOENIX — It’s all hands on deck at Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest, as they prepare to welcome Afghan refugees.

Clark Hurlbert has been a volunteer there since 2017.

He works as a mentor for incoming refugees.

Hurlbert tells us he spends anywhere from five to ten hours a week, making sure the refugees he mentors have what they need.

“They fled out of Afghanistan under some very horrible situations,” he told ABC15 as he reflected on some of the experiences refugees shared with him.

He says when the refugees arrive at Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest, they are set up with housing.

At this point they have most, if not all, of their paperwork.

“They need to have a social security card. They need to have a work authorization card. And when they came in they would have an I-94 form, which I think the customs would provide that form,” said Hurlbert.

Then Hurlbert takes over and becomes their mentor.

One of his first tasks is taking them to the bank and setting them up with an account.

“Now let’s see. We got to put it on a phone for you. We got to teach you how to use the debit card and things like that,” he added.

He says the hardest part for refugees to adjust to, initially, is learning the English language.

Hurlbert says he works with them, for as long as it takes, and they get through it together.

“If I didn’t understand what they were saying, I would tell them and we’d work until they got an understanding,” he told ABC15.

He says after that, the next challenge is comforting them when they miss home.

“They do miss their families. They miss their relatives,” said Hurlbert.

While they may feel lonely at times, Hurlbert says they are thankful to be safe in the states and are eager to give back.

So, they oftentimes take the initiative to find a job.

“They are gainfully employed, paying their fair share of taxes, and I’m going to say they are contributing to society just like the rest of us,” he added.

As for Hurlbert, he says he will continue to volunteer and help refugees resettle for as long as he can.

“The reward is tremendous in self-gratification in what you do,” he told ABC15.

Below is a list of resources to help resettlement groups in Arizona.

Arizona Refugee Resettlement Program
Arizona Immigrant & Refugee Services
Catholic Charities Community Services
International Rescue Committee
Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest