Refugee case manager helps Afghans thrive in new life

Sarwar Hawez, right, a self-reliance case manager for Catholic Charities’ Refugee and Immigration Services in the Diocese of Nashville, Tenn., Escorts the Akbar family out of the Nashville International Airport after their arrival on November 1, 2021. They are four of 300 Afghans resettled in Nashville with the help of Catholic Charities. (CNS Photo / Katie Peterson, Tennesse Register)

NASHVILLE – Sarwar Hawez is one of eight case managers assisting Afghans who will be resettled in Nashville after being evacuated from Kabul, Afghanistan, following the Taliban takeover.

He’s been a Self-Sufficiency Case Manager with Catholic Charities Refugee and Immigration Services in the Diocese of Nashville since 2003, and he wouldn’t want it any other way.

“I like being a case manager to see different people, different attitudes, different psychology, different cultures,” Hawez said. “Every day I learn new things. I like the job. Even though I work Saturdays and Sundays, I don’t care.

Catholic Charities aid is part of the US Department of State’s Afghan Placement Assistance program. Refugees resettled under the program are generally self-sufficient within six to eight months of arrival.

In addition to his dedication, Hawez brings something else to his work: he understands the experience of the arrival of Afghans having been a refugee himself in 1997. He and his family were evacuated from Kurdistan in the north from Iraq to Guam then to Nashville by the World Relief Agency.

As of October 31, 85 of the Afghans who were due to be resettled in Nashville had arrived, and Hawez is currently overseeing nine of those cases.

That number will only increase in the coming months, as new developments in the program were announced on November 9, as the U.S. military and State Department work to speed up evacuees from military bases. by February 15.

“Based on the successful partnerships that Catholic Charities was able to forge, including housing options, volunteers, faith communities and employers, when the federal government asked us to increase capacity, Catholic Charities agreed to increase our number of Afghan arrivals to 300 from the 150 originally planned, ”said Judy Orr, Executive Director of Catholic Charities.

With the increase in the number of arrivals comes the increased importance of case managers such as Hawez.

The job of the case manager is to welcome refugee families to Nashville when they arrive at the airport and help them meet their basic needs until they become self-sufficient.

“We call it basic services, which are housing, food stamps, social security, medical care, ID cards, and employment,” Hawez told the Tennessee Register, the diocesan newspaper. of Nashville.

Kellye Branson, director of refugee and immigration services, said case managers are among the most essential parts of the department.

“They are critical. They are the first to come into contact with our customers. They basically set the stage for the interaction between our agency and the people we serve, ”said Branson. “They are responsible for not only getting people to dates, but also paying attention to any concerns that may be present whether they are expressed or not.”

Case managers “are the eyes and ears of our department,” she added.

They see what “customer needs, what are their fears,” and “respond to,” as well as provide customers with information and answers to their questions, Branson added.

“They let them know what it’s going to be in the next few months, they calm their nerves if they are worried about how they are going to pay for their apartments,” she explained.

Case managers also connect refugees with the community and other resources they can ask questions about and “help clients articulate their goals and needs so that we can also incorporate this part of the plan (resettlement ), “she said.

“They are the ones who take the pulse of the families we serve,” added Branson. “We are counting on them to come back and let us know what this family needs and then to work to find the resources for them. “

Regarding the link between his experience and the current situation in Kabul, Hawez said: “History has repeated itself.”

Its evacuation came after Saddam Hussein tried to oppress the Kurdish people after the end of the First Gulf War, 1990-1991.

Like many Afghans who found new life in Nashville, Hawez worked with the US military before becoming a refugee. He worked with the Organization for the Reconstruction of Kurdistan, which met weekly with the US Office for Disaster Assistance Abroad.

“Saddam has ordered that anyone who has worked with a foreign agency, especially with a US office or agency, be executed,” Hawez said.

But he also recognizes that the situation is different for everyone, and the two oppressions are different, which is why he only focuses on the service he provides.

“This question is complicated because each individual has a different perspective,” he said. “I’m so happy to bring more Afghans to Nashville.

“I like helping refugees, especially those who don’t speak English as well and need help to adapt and integrate into this society.

Delays in the provision of some services, due to bureaucratic changes in how and where refugees apply for benefits, have not made the resettlement process easy.

Nonetheless, Hawez wishes to provide the best possible service to its Afghan customers.

“I am committed to encouraging them and letting them know that they are in a safe place, in a good place and in a good system, and that everything in the future will be good for their families and that they will have a better life here, ”said Hawez.

“They have a good opportunity not just for education,” he added, “but for getting a job and building a really good life in America.”

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