A Response to Afghanistan

Thousands of people in Afghanistan have a well-founded fear of reprisal, persecution, and targeted assassinations.

News sources that even remotely hint how we may be misunderstanding the current and future actions/intentions of the “capital T” Taliban ignore that they have already been engaging in widespread acts of violence and torture in their retaking of the country.

Not to mention that millions of girls and women will now have many of their rights stolen.

This is precisely what causes displacement/refugees; those fleeing persecution due to association (in this case by association with the global West) or persecution in the form of wanting to be an educated, professional woman.

There are immediate needs; this is not what Every Shelter does yet. However, Every Shelter helps provide for the needs that will inevitably arise as the millions who won’t meet the Special Immigration Visa (SIV) technical qualifications look to flee across the border for a life no longer possible to them at home.

This is where we work.

We’re working to build a model and a system to respond to a gap the current system can’t or doesn’t recognize; these millions who will flee across a border won’t be able to go home for decades. Historically less than 1% of these families will be resettled in a place like the United States or Europe; the vast majority will live in urban poverty or camp settings in the countries in immediate proximity.

I have no reason to believe that this specific displacement event will be any different than, say, Syria (10+ years of displacement now), South Sudan (20+ years), or Somalia (20+ years). Why? Because the well-founded fear that many Afghans have isn’t going away any time soon with the complete withdrawal of western militaries. They don’t and won’t have something to go back to.

It seems clear that many who hope for an SIV won’t be granted one. The alternative traditional resettlement routes won’t be open to them for a long time outside of our government’s concerted push.

You can call your members of congress and plead for diplomatic and military stabilizing support to keep that airport running as long as possible.

For those in Houston, the next thing you can do is to consider taking the orientation at Houston Welcomes Refugees to provide gap support to the hundreds of SIV status Afghans who will inevitably be resettled here in Houston in September.

You can be a friend to them, help them shop for groceries, help get their apartments furnished, help them navigate our mass transit system, help them get their kids enrolled in school, host them at your house for a meal, extend your welcome, and friendship.

Every Shelter is organizationally close in friendship with HWR, and we admire their mission and work. I couldn’t recommend them to you enough. My wife and I have personally volunteered through them.

The last thing is this, I addressed it above, but the reality is that most of these Afghans won’t have a chance to apply for or gain an SIV. Millions with a well-founded fear of persecution or who refuse to re-enter the 7th century will need to take refuge somewhere else.

If recent history is a gauge for this, they’ll be displaced in this way for decades. Quickly their needs will stop making the news cycle here, as Syria has, and millions will languish anonymously in camp settings. This is Every Shelter’s focus. We need modern approaches that recognize that people, who aren’t eligible for resettlement, have talents, potential, and capacity that are going untapped. We see it in every context we’ve ever worked.

Invest in us. We’re building a model that we hope to transplant into new settings as we grow, but we have to grow to do it. Many have asked us if we’re helping or able to help Afghans. Lord willing, we can in the future…if we can grow.

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Noella Kabale Kalu

Advisory Board Member

Kampala, Uganda

Noella Kabale Kalu is a Congolese by nationality, living in Uganda as a refugee registered in the urban setting since 2011. She is the founder of REAL Uganda and Refugee Women Voices, a member of the Refugee-led Network (RELON), Refugee Representative at the CRRF steering working group. She aspires to build a society where women, men, and young females are treated with dignity, fairness, and respect, regardless of their status & and vulnerable conditions they find themselves in due to war, conflict, or other atrocities.

Andy Agaba

Advisory Board Member

Kampala, Uganda

Andy Agaba is a Praxis Fellow and the founder of Hiinga, a Christian Impact Investing Fund working across a spectrum of sectors including healthcare, financial services, education, agriculture, and manufacturing in East Africa. He graduated from Harvard Kennedy School where he was a Gleitsman Innovation Fellow at the Center for Public Leadership. At Uganda's Makerere University, he was a Poli sci major. Andy advises at the MIT Martin Trust Center for Entrepreneurship and is an award-winning documentary photographer.

Marie Nyiraneza

Advisory Board Member

Nakivale, Uganda

Marie is a Social Worker, currently working with the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) as a Community Paralegal in Nakivale Refugee Settlement, and Interpreter for Refugee Resettlement Programs. Marie is a refugee from Rwanda and has lived in Nakivale Refugee Settlement since 2008. She holds a Bachelor in Social Work and a CEFE Licence for Entrepreneurship Trainer. She is passionate about contributing to the improvement of refugee livelihoods and is also a Master Trainer for the MarketPlace Literacy Program in Nakivale.

Sam Brisendine

Co-Founder and Board Member

Houston, Texas

As a designer from the private sector, I'm passionate about ideas that improve the lives of those in need. My experience designing buildings, products, and art has taught me an important lesson: The most meaningful work is produced when partners work hand-in-hand on a common mission. Over the past 5 years, I've watched Every Shelter transform from an academic pursuit to working (and learning) alongside world-class organizations to design solutions that bring dignity to displaced communities. I have never been more proud of the work we're doing and look forward to seeing how we can continue to collaborate to solve the challenges ahead.

Stefanie Cortez

Communications Specialist

Dallas, Texas

At Every Shelter I have the unique opportunity to use two passions in my life, mathematics and parenting, in one position. As a mathematician, I appreciate effective, elegant, and well-developed solutions to a problem. As a mom of two little ones, I also know the importance of sharing the stories, challenges, and successes of my life with my kids and others. As Communications Specialist for Every Shelter, I have the opportunity to inform the public about innovative designs as well as share the stories of people who are resolutely rebuilding their lives in new communities and countries despite overwhelming challenges. I believe that every person who reads about our work has the ability to impact people’s lives across the globe as they follow along with the journey to help people rebuild their lives from the floor up.

Lauren Hanson

Development Officer

Houston, Texas

As a mother to two young children, I cannot imagine the fear and despair I would feel if I was forced to leave the comfort of my home and community. The fact that this is a growing reality for so many people around our world is truly heartbreaking. I believe our compassion can make a significant impact in the lives of these displaced populations. As Melinda Gates writes, “Philanthropy is not about the money. It’s about using whatever resources you have at your fingertips and applying them to improving the world.” Therefore, it is my privilege to mobilize people to make a global impact with their time, gifts, and resources through partnering with Every Shelter as we labor to bring better provisions and life dignifying solutions to forcefully displaced populations.

Loise Wambui

Program Coordinator

Kampala, Uganda

I am deeply committed to advocating for joint solutions to economic and social development issues. I consider myself a global citizen with cross-cultural experience working as an economist in Eswatini, a Girl Scout volunteer in rural Switzerland, and teaching in Mathare, one of Kenya's largest slums. My desire to work towards dignified shelter solutions for vulnerable people started while working in Mathare Slums. Four years later, I am now working with and for refugees in Uganda. I have loved using my many abilities in this new sector, and my favorite thing has been working with local small enterprises and refugee organizations to sew the tarps! As someone conscious of how my own actions affect the wider community, I am always learning new ways to help make things a little better.

Nicole Iman

Co-Founder and CPO

Ras al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates

I’ve been traveling the globe in development-related pursuits for more than 20 years, working with people throughout the varied stages of displacement. During my tenure in Afghanistan, I saw first-hand the challenges my Afghan colleagues faced that caused them to flee for their lives. While studying in northern Uganda, I met families struggling through years of displacement despite multiple attempts to return home. Through volunteer resettlement work in the US, I welcomed resettled refugees hoping to rebuild their lives in a new place while mourning the loss of friends and family they left behind. I am keenly aware of the human tendency to look at images of displaced people and refugees and immediately categorize them as “other.” Through joining Every Shelter, I have the chance to share stories that can change that category to “one another” and help us work together toward dignified, human-centered solutions.

Scott Key

Co-Founder and CEO

Houston, Texas

The process of designing new approaches and solutions to grave issues drives me. I believe the private sector and its vast reserves of professional skills and resources can fruitfully add to the productivity of ongoing humanitarian efforts to create a more just and merciful society. We all have a responsibility to do our part, but I firmly believe that in giving of ourselves we receive far more back than we give. Wendell Berry writes, “life is a gift we have only by giving it back again.” As a father of two young daughters, I want to model the intelligent, diligent, and hard-working compassion toward our neighbor to which I believe we are all obliged. It’s urgent and important work that we do.