HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) – On Thursday, Church World Service Harrisonburg hosted a community appreciation and awards breakfast to honor the community partners that have helped its refugee resettlement efforts over the last year.
“We really could not do the work that we do without our community partners. They have provided housing, provided food, provided welcome, to people who are seeking safety and security,” said Susannah Lepley, the Virginia Director of Church World Service.
During the event, Lepley also gave an update on the organization’s work so far this year. From October to February, the organization helped resettle 200 refugees around the valley, mostly from Afghanistan.
“We went from historic lows of refugee resettlement to basically a historic high. The entire previous year we settled 50 total people and this year in each month from October 15 to February 15 we resettled 50 people,” she said.
CWS is also looking to do what it can to help Ukrainian refugees.
“Refugee resettlement is changing and so there are different people in the community that are working to help Ukrainians so at this point, we’re just trying to figure out who is doing what and if there are any gaps in services we can provide,” said Lepley.
CWS is limited in the services it can provide Ukrainians because they are coming in on a parole status and CWS has limitations on what it is allowed to do with its federal funding.
“Ukrainians don’t have the same protections as refugees, they don’t have access to the same services refugees receive and so we’d really like the federal government to step up and provide the same services and protections to Ukrainians,” said Lepley.
As CWS looks to continue its refugee resettlement efforts in the future, Lepley said she is grateful that the organization is part of such a strong community.
“Harrisonburg is such a welcoming community. We value diversity. We value people from other countries. We have such an incredible wealth of trying to make people feel like they belong here. So that’s really what we want to continue to do and I have no doubt that will happen,” she said.
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