Experience Making a Difference

Experience Making a Difference

Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center: Helping Afghan Refugees Resettle in Northern Virginia

by | Feb 13, 2024

IVC Service Corps Member Mary Campbell (seated, far right) and the Dar Al-Hijrah social services team.

Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center, a mosque and Islamic Center in Falls Church, Virginia, provides extensive social services to a vibrant and diverse Muslim community.  With a congregation of over 3,500 members representing over fifty countries, the Center’s comprehensive support programs include career training and placement, a food bank, dental care and serving thousands of hot meals annually. Recently, the Center has taken on a new and urgent role: supporting newly arrived Afghan refugees.

“We’ve experienced an unprecedented arrival of Afghan refugees in the area, and our staff took on about 50 cases in 2022,” says Stacey Picard, the Center’s director of social services. “Informally, we served over 1,600 Afghans who came in for assistance.”  In June, the Department of State formally recognized Dar Al-Hijrah as a Northern Virginia resettlement agency, and the Center has committed to processing 125 total cases representing 30-40 families over the next year.

It’s a big task for an already-busy social services staff.  The Center now provides services for up to 90 days to help resettle Afghan families, including housing, obtaining public benefits, and providing a pathway to employment.  “The biggest part of resettlement is housing, which is scarce here and very expensive,” Stacey says.  “We need to secure an apartment for the family before they arrive.”  With more help needed to support her staff, Stacy reached out to IVC for an experienced volunteer.

Longtime IVC member Mary Campbell responded and has joined the Dar Al-Hijrah team as a case aide to the housing director.  Mary helps by making calls and site visits and collaborating with landlords to ensure that leases are secured before families arrive.  She also helps families understand the terms of the lease and coordinates support from other team members as needed.

She jumped right into the job!  On her way home from interviewing with Stacey, Mary stopped by a nearby motel to ask about their availability to accommodate refugees for a brief time. “The manager agreed to work with Dar Al-Hijrah and to have culturally appropriate meals available for the Afghan families,” she says.  Mary’s background and experience – a bachelor’s degree in English, master’s degree in social work, and administrative service at two prior IVC partner agencies –are already paying dividends.  “I have a lot of online resources to check out and read through, and calls to make, but the goal is to help resettle these refugees.”

For Stacey, reaching out to IVC was the right way to go.  She’s delighted to have Mary on the staff and hopes another IVC member will also come on board. The interfaith connection is working well to help those most in need!