We all remember where we were and what we were doing when gut-wrenching headlines started flooding the media: “United States Declares End to 20-Year War in Afghanistan.”
Kabul was in chaos and many of us were glued to our television screens, helplessly watching the terror unfold while we sat in tears. While emotions ran high and the world looked on, something sparked in the hearts of our military community. Military spouses, veterans, and patriots mobilized to find practical ways to receive the Afghan refugees spilling onto our shores. These refugees, desperate for hope and in need of help, arrived on American soil with not much more than the clothes on their backs.
Amy Marden and her team at ReactDC stepped up to the plate to provide aid. The events taking place in Afghanistan moved Amy, the CEO and founder of ReactDC, to action. In response to the immense need on the ground, Amy raised up a team to stand in the gap. ReactDC, a 501c3 nonprofit, provides compassionate, comprehensive, and resettlement assistance for the recently arrived Afghan refugees in the D.C. metro area and hopes to empower other communities to do the same with their Sponsor Circle Program. ReactDC works with families to steer them onto a path of self-reliance and integration into their new lives in America.
I had the honor of interviewing Amy Marden, Josh Burgess, Molly Sepulvado, Ally Brown, and Kelly Smith.
Amy Marden’s rapid response to help others is awe-inspiring. Her heart was touched during all of the commotion happening overseas, so she reached out to her local community via Facebook to begin the process of setting up homes for those relocating to the D.C. area. A few homes turned into many and the work is continuing today.
Josh Burgess, vice president of the board of directors, is a veteran and a military spouse. In the interview he said,
“I am a firm believer in the power of our community because military spouses really do make impactful differences in a multitude of areas. This situation really hits closer to home. My wife and I both deployed to Afghanistan and we know many people who were greatly impacted by their time there. Personally, helping these families is very important to me.”
Molly Sepulvado, the ReactDC director of family services, had one question in mind: “How can I help?” She rolled up her sleeves and jumped into the work.
“Military spouses naturally pull up their bootstraps and start helping whoever they can wherever they can,” she said.
Ally Brown, the family education specialist for ReactDC, shares, “As a military spouse, I was quite active in education for military children and in support roles in general. This job was a natural transition for me and it is the most rewarding job I’ve ever done in my life.”
Finally, Kelly Smith, a jack of all trades within the organization, had a beautiful message. “We all have something to give. Everyone has a talent. Everyone has a purpose. Everyone has strengths. We all have something to bring to the table. If you feel like there is nothing you can contribute, you’ll find that you are dead wrong.”H
How You Can Help
Give Funds. Funds are always needed to provide Afghan newcomers with quality housing, education opportunities, and language training. You can make your donation to ReactDC by visiting their website at reactdc.org.
Raise awareness. Follow ReactDC on Facebook and Twitter. Share their initiatives. Learn the stories of those who have been greatly impacted and how we can all help.
Check out the Sponsor Circle Program. Sponsor Circle Program is a new opportunity for communities, any group of five people or more, to gather together and sponsor an Afghan family into their local community. After their assigned Afghan newcomers leave their temporary military issued lodgings, this circle of community members will raise the funds for that Afghan family to receive housing, find education opportunities, career options, and be integrated into the community. For Sponsor Circles, ReactDC acts as the umbrella organization, offering training and support for those offering aid to Afghan allied families.
The entire team believes that this work—welcoming others in and offering compassion—is a work for everyone. Whether you can mobilize through giving, offer support through sharing, or by bootstrapping some on the ground help for families in need, there is a place at the table for all of us.