It’s hard to believe we launched our pilot project with the Afghan Community Center (ACC) six months ago! As the project comes to a close, we are delighted to share with you the results of our collaboration.
The ACC has already submitted two funding requests to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)—which were both accepted and fully funded! This means the Afghan community will now benefit from sewing and cooking classes for women, which will enable them to find work and provide a means of support for their families.
Motivated by the success of their first two submissions, the leaders have submitted two additional funding requests to the UNHCR. The first is for baking classes, so that women can learn to bake at home and sell bread to their community. The other proposal is for IT classes, which would teach valuable skills to community members, including building and editing resumes, searching the internet for employment opportunities, finding housing, and other online services.
In addition to amplified program offerings, the ACC has also greatly improved its capacity to collaborate with partners. The leaders of the community have recently been visited by potential partners coming from South Korea and have held the meeting very professionally.
Communication within the community has also vastly improved, streamlining their program offerings enabling greater access to the center, and increasing trust and transparency with community members. New communication initiatives include: monthly newsletters, and clear communication about the selection process of leaders, giving them more legitimacy. As a result of these communication efforts, ACC members are now more inclined to get involved in their community. For instance, volunteers come regularly to help clean the office or fix things, and some even contribute financially to the office (water, electricity) by contributions via a donation box.
Additionally, ACC leaders have created a database which lists all community members. They can therefore immediately know the identity of someone who has been arrested by the police and contact their partner organizations right away so that they can intervene on the community member’s behalf. Refugees are still considered illegal in Malaysia, and fear of interference with law enforcement is a persistent reality of life for ACC community members.
One of the most rewarding results of our work is a less tangible effect that has become clear through our close collaboration with the ACC team : we can see that our program has had a positive psychological impact. The community leaders are highly committed, and we can see that their confidence, optimism, and sense of peace had greatly increased as our program comes to a close. They regularly have new ideas to improve the lives of their community members, and we are confident in their continued success moving forward.
A powerful shift has taken place within the Afghan community since the start of the URBAN REFUGEES pilot project—and the community continues to thrive and grow ! Every day, we see this success as validation of our grassroots model : collaborating with urban refugees in supporting their own communities.