The Afghan refugee crisis has rapidly increased the pace of change in refugee resettlement in the United States. Last month the Biden Administration announced a new program, in partnership with the Community Sponsorship Hub (CSH), a project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisers, Inc., to launch the Sponsor Circle Program for Afghans. This program allows groups of private citizens to sponsor Afghan evacuees during the initial resettlement process.

When groups of citizens join together as a sponsoring team, they become “sponsor circles” working to help refugees with basic services and tasks traditionally handled by nonprofits, services such as securing housing, accessing government benefits, and providing food and clothing. These “sponsorship circles“ are a new frontier in the world of refugee assistance, and HIAS is playing a major role.

Together with partners in the American Jewish community, HIAS is launching a network of what it hopes will be at least 100 sponsorship circles. Through these Welcome Circles, HIAS plans to resettle between 500 to 1,000 Afghan refugees in communities across the country

Sponsorship circles are not intended to replace traditional resettlement, which is the gold standard for resettlement services in the U.S. However, with approximately 45,000 Afghan men, women, and children still living on seven military bases around the country, there is a need to mobilize all the community resources to help guide these Afghan neighbors through their early days and months in the U.S. 

Through this new Welcome Circle program, HIAS will provide varied support to sponsorship circles, including dedicated staff, resources on best practices in resettlement, peer-to-peer mentoring, and technical expertise — all of which are designed to assist circles along the way and in moments when challenging situations arise. 

If your congregation or organization is interested in forming a HIAS Welcome Circle, visit https://www.hias.org/welcome-circles.

Lesley Frost, Advocacy Chair

Sources: HIAS, CSH, the Idealist, State Department, ABC News