As resettlement agencies prep for evacuees, Afghan volunteers draw from their personal experience

Two protesters hold protest signs

Freshta Abedi (right) at an Afghan diaspora protest in Washington on September 12, 2021. (Courtesy/Freshta Abedi)

Refugee resettlement agencies in New England are preparing to welcome hundreds of Afghanistan evacuees. Volunteers are lending their expertise to help agencies with the new arrivals. That includes people who have personally been through many of the same experiences.

Freshta Abedi is a 38-year-old chemical process engineer by day and Afghan cultural mentor by night. She volunteers at Ascentria, a resettlement agency with Massachusetts offices in West Springfield and Worcester, and another in Concord, New Hampshire.

She recently sat in a conference room at the Worcester office, furiously typing in a Google spreadsheet.

“We are preparing a list of items, some cultural notes, a list of local grocery stores, nonperishable food items that would be acceptable as donation items. Because people have been on the camp, so they must be craving some real Afghan food,” Abedi said.

Ascentria managers asked Abedi to list what she enjoyed as a child, born and raised in Afghanistan.

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