By Larry Kidder with Scott Guptill | Three Afghan families have been welcomed to the Loma Linda community through the Sponsor Circle Program. A special gathering took place on Saturday, August 19, 2023, bringing together the three Afghan families with various individuals and organizations who have been part of their Loma Linda Sponsor Circle.
The sudden and complete withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Afghanistan in August of 2021 left many individuals in grave danger. U.S. citizens living in Afghanistan were stranded there as well as Afghan citizens who had helped the U.S. in some way. Over the years since, many non-government organizations have stepped in to rescue those left behind.
One such organization, the Sponsors Circle Program, was initiated as "a community-led resettlement initiative that allows everyday Americans to take on the responsibility of welcoming a newcomer to their communities." While the U.S.-based program doesn't seem to be active, the Canadian program served as an important resource for the Loma Linda group. Loma Linda University Drayson Center became a part of the welcome process for three refugee families.
The families were involved with the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) International. Because ADRA International is headquartered in the United States, their association with any U.S. entity could result in reprisals by the Taliban. Through donations to nPraxisinternational.org, the families were able to board a chartered flight and escape to Dubai, where they settled in a refugee camp for the next two years awaiting word of resettlement.
The Loma Linda Sponsor Circle was formed and is lead by John McGhee. He describes the Loma Linda group as "united in our desire to help these families who have not enjoyed the stability and safety that we find here in Loma Linda." McGhee adds, "We hope to make their transition to this community as easy as possible."
Becky de Graaff, a former colleague of members of the refugee families, sent a letter to the International Organization of Migration, which helped to connect these three families with the Loma Linda Sponsor Circle.
Sponsor Circle volunteers assist refugees in finding housing, health care, education, employment, and—most importantly—community.
LLU Drayson Center has become an important part of building community for these families. The children have joined the soccer leagues hosted on the Drayson Center Superfield, while the teens enjoy swimming and weight training. “In Afghanistan, it is not common for women to use a treadmill in public," says Sponsor Circle volunteer Lavonne Meadows, "so they have enjoyed trying something new.”
Drayson Center promotes wholeness through fitness and recreation, bringing together a community of like-minded individuals who value physical health and wellness. The administration and staff were pleased to welcome these new Afghan friends.
Some picturesque views of Afghanistan (scroll down)…