A Note on our Afghan Allies from Connect Community’s Executive Director, Anne Whitlock:

Afghanistan is a beautiful country, rich in history and culture. Because it has been at the center of conflict for far too long, that fact is often lost. Much of the focus has been on politics, but for us at Connect Community, and for me, it’s much more personal. 

We have the privilege of knowing the land and its people beyond the headlines. Gulfton/Sharpstown has been and continues to be the adopted home of so many Afghan refugees and immigrants. Connect Community has the immense pleasure of meeting them, getting to know them, and working alongside them through our work. These past few days have been difficult for us as we take in the news and try to process all of the chaos taking place. 

In Connect’s early years, I remember one particular lunch where I sat cross-legged on the floor of an apartment at Crescent Oaks in Gulfton, TX, sharing a meal with a group of Afghan women. We did not share a common language, but we persevered in the awkwardness and smiled at one another as I used my hands to eat the delicious Afghan food laid out before me. They must have known I was not well-versed at eating with my hands as the children watched and giggled. The women offered me a cup of steaming hot tea to finish the meal, ensuring that I left happy and full. As the days and years continued, the hospitality I received from the Afghan community never diminished. 

Through the years, I have met Afghans from all walks of life including those who worked alongside the U.S. Military as translators and local experts. All of them came to Gulfton hoping that their sacrifices and their long journeys would result in a better life for their families. They worked hard and supported each other as a community. And that community extends beyond Gulfton/Sharpstown and back to Afghanistan. 

Everyone knows someone that has a family member, a friend, or a neighbor stuck in Afghanistan. When we all heard the events from the past week, it was personal. Fear and confusion quickly spread amongst residents and friends. Connect Community staff and partners spent the weekend working with the community to get their loved ones on a list for the U.S. State Department in the hopes of an evacuation. We are still working to ensure their safety and doing what we can to support our neighbors during this time.

Community is in our name, and community is in what we do. In the center of that, and amid this conflict, are people. That’s where we continue to focus our attention. Again, Afghanistan has a long history and a rich culture that deserves to be heard and understood. And the Afghan people deserve our respect and our solidarity as we all face this crisis together.

There is much uncertainty about the future for our Afghan brothers and sisters, but we at Connect Community stand by them. We will be coordinating closely with our partners to make the process as smooth as possible for those seeking refuge. My goal is to return some of the hospitality so generously bestowed upon me on my luncheon visit seven years ago.

We will continue to share updates as news and needs unfold while welcoming new residents to our community. Please stay tuned for more information. If you would like to help, please contact us at anitha@myconnectcommunity.org.