Nonprofit hosts picnic to help Afghan refugees adjust to their new life in Tulsa

tulsa children
Posted at 6:34 AM, Oct 21, 2021

TULSA, Okla — It's been a rough few months of thousands of refugees that fled Afghanistan amid the Taliban's takeover of the country in August.

Families were forced to leave their homes, their country and everything they had ever known. They crammed into a crowded airport with just a few belongings, loaded onto packed planes and shipped off to a new world to escape the horrors around them.

That is the reality for the hundreds of Afghan refugees working to build a new life in Tulsa.

As they work to adjust to a new country, a new language and a whole new way of life, Tulsa Metropolitan Ministry has been there every step of the way.

"This is a total interfaith effort between our Catholic brothers and sisters and our Jewish brothers and sisters and our Protestant friends and the Muslims that are coming in," said Aliye Shimi, the executive director of Tulsa Metropolitan Ministry.

Shimi says one way the Ministry is helping refugees put their lives back together is by getting the families out of their housing and letting children run, play and just be kids.

For many refugee children, Wednesday evening marked the first time they had ever seen or played at a park.

While the children tested out the swings, the slide, the merry-go-round and other playthings in the park, their parents kept a watchful but thankful eye.

"We are just out here trying to give them a little bit of family time for them to be able to see Tulsa and enjoy some of our partners here," Shimi said.

"It's very cool to see. I don't know. I mean, it's like me being placed in another country and trying to understand the experiences that they are going through," Tulsa Police Chief Wendell Franklin said.

Franklin says he wants Tulsans to understand the enormous ordeal the refugees have been through and what a gift they are to the community.

"I think it's a great opportunity for our city just to show the outpouring and caring community that we are, and I think it's just a great experience," Franklin said.

The first of Tulsa's refugee arrivals began on Sept. 24. While there are many organizations working to make sure they are housed and fed, there is still a need for things like sanitary products, English as second language teachers, legal support for civilian paperwork processing and residency or work permits. The Tulsa Metropolitan Ministry has set up a GoFundMe for those interested in assisting in those efforts.

This story was originally published by Sharon Phillips on Scripps station KJRH in Tulsa, Oklahoma.