Local Riverside Nonprofit Assists Afghan Refugees
Part One of Three Part Series: Glocally Connected History
“I learned a lot. It changed my life. I wanted to do something.”
These are some of the comments expressed by Dr. Selin Yildiz Nielsen as she talks about her work with the Afghan and Syrian refugees with enthusiasm and concern.
That desire of "wanting to do something" for and with the refugees was influenced by the news story and photos of Alan Kurdi, the Kurdish toddler from Syria who drowned when the rubber boat he was in with his parents and older brother capsized along the coastal waters of Turkey in September 2015. His father, Abdullah Kurdi, survived the tragedy.
Originally from Turkey, Dr. Nielsen began the research on forced migration and as she travelled back and forth from her homeland to the United States, she also assessed what services were available for the refugees in the Inland Empire.
“My partner and I went to resettlement agencies. We wanted to know what was going on with the refugees in the Inland Empire. There were not any refugee agencies that we were aware of at the time and yet the refugees were resettled here but there were no services for them. We really did not know what to do or where to turn,” Dr. Nielsen related. “We started meeting with the refugees who were resettled in Riverside. We got to meet this population.”
She co-founded Glocally Connected, a nonprofit specifically designed to meet the needs of the Afghan refugees living in Riverside. She is also the director of the organization which has four board of directors and additional assistance comes from four executive team members who work on a voluntary basis.
Dr. Nielsen stated that the organization began to offer ESL classes. The local faith-based organizations donated space. The Afghan women began to take interest in the ESL classes but there was no transportation for them as they had no car or child care.
“We were able to secure volunteers who transported the Afghan women and also arranged for child care,” Dr. Nielsen stated.
Glocally Connected is now serving 20 Afghan families with the support of 25 volunteers who are mostly university students and retirees from local churches.
The nonprofit offers wrap around services, classes, and workshops. The organization also provides food, emergency assistance and COVid-19 support. Dr. Nielsen pointed that these and other services are being provided without funding from foundations or governmental agencies.
Part Two: Volunteers at Glocally Connected