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Forum addresses concerns about Afghan refugees settling in Helena

Forum addresses concerns about Afghan refugees settling in Montana
Posted at 11:25 AM, Dec 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-17 13:27:07-05

HELENA — About a hundred people showed up for a meeting on Thursday night hosted by Hands On Global, a non-profit agency that is helping Afghan refugees resettle to Helena.

Hands On Global said earlier this week that about 15 Afghan refugees would resettle to Helena in the coming months; Thursday's meeting was intended to address potential concerns and allow speakers to share their professional perspectives.

Among the speakers at the event were Valerie Hellerman from Hands On Global, Helena mayor Wilmot Collins, military veteran David Oclander, and Lisa Williams, a trauma psychologist.

Speaker listened to questions from the audience and tried to address potential concerns that the audience was likely to have.

A major focus of the meeting was the nationally-highlighted topic of the vetting process.

Mayor Collins, who came to the U.S. as a refugee himself from Liberia, reiterated that refugees have been fully vetted by the several agencies: “We have the FBI, the Federal Bureau of Investigation. We have the National Counterterrorism Center. We have the IC, intelligence community. You have the US government. All of these people will have to go, refugees have to go through them, the Afghans will have to go through them,” says Collins.

David Oclander, a retired Army colonel and former strategic planner for the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon, said these refugees are coming to America to start a new life.

“The individuals who are coming to the United States have been vetted. They are grateful for what we have done for them and that we're honoring our commitment to them, and they have the potential to be amazing citizens,” says Oclander.

Valerie Hellerman, director of Hands On Global, told the crowd that the refugees helped Americans during the war in Afghanistan and risked much during the two-decade conflict.

“These Afghans in particular, these refugees, have helped Americans, our military. They've worked with NATO. They've put their own lives at great risk and their family's lives at great risk, and so now we want to welcome them to our community and take care of them,” says Hellerman.

The Afghan refugees will arrive in the coming months and Hands On Global is collecting items they will need when they get here.

“Winter clothing, household items because they've arrived here with very little if anything but the clothes on their back,”said Hellermann.

If you would like to donate, click here to visit the website.

For clothing and household essential donations, call Hellermann at 406-439-3580.