The Virginia Community Center
Much like our New York Community Center in Queens, WAW’s Virginia Community Center (VACC) was established in 2022 to provide vital services to newly-arriving Afghans in the area, and to support already-established Afghan and other immigrant communities.
Since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021, WAW has seen a 300% increase in requests for its services and programs.
The takeover created a humanitarian and global refugee crisis, with close to 90,000 Afghans arriving in the United States (U.S.) between 2021-2023. These Afghan refugees and evacuees are arriving to the U.S. with an immediate need for comprehensive, culturally-sensitive, and linguistically-appropriate support to rebuild their lives.
WAW has over twenty years of experience and expertise to meet these needs.
Women for Afghan Women (WAW) is the only Afghan-led 501(c)(3) direct service organization in the East Coast that provides culturally sensitive social services in the Afghan languages of Dari and Pashto. It also is the only Afghan-led organization in the US that provides support to Afghan survivors of domestic violence.
To download a pdf/electronic copy of our US-based services and programs flyer [ click here ]
Virginia has the second largest Afghan community in the US—having over 23,000 or 18% of the US total Afghan population. More than 6,000 new Afghans also have arrived in the state since 2021, with thousands more expected to arrive in 2024 and beyond, according to Virginia Governor Ralph Northam. WAW and its resettlement partners expect more newly-arrived Afghans to move to the greater DC area after their 90-day resettlement support period ends, to be closer to families and an established Afghan community.
Virginia Community Center (VACC)
WAW’s VACC is located in Alexandria, VA (where the majority of local Afghans reside). WAW's VACC specialized teams go above and beyond the call of duty to provide the following immediate, pro bono, culturally-sensitive, and linguistically-competent services:
- COMPREHENSIVE CASE MANAGEMENT SUPPORT: VACC's team of dedicated caseworkers to provide assistance to families, ensuring we can meet fundamental needs such as: job placement, healthcare, certifications/vocational training, transportation, and accompaniment to appointments. We also offer interpretation/translation services and address any other specific needs. We offer additional services, including assistance in finding suitable legal representation and advocacy in court and police stations to support survivors of domestic violence.
- REFUGEE RESPONSE: The VACC meets the immediate needs of refugees resettling in the US, including all of WAW’s case management services and partnerships with private companies, non-profit resettlement agencies, and US government agencies to provide temporary housing, transportation, household provisions and personal items, among other critical needs.
- IMMIGRATION LEGAL SERVICES: The VACC's legal team offers a wide range of legal services tailored to meet our clients unique needs. From adjustment of status and asylum applications to securing employment authorization, filing motions with immigration courts, and handling cases with the Board of Immigration Appeals. Additionally, our services extend to matters such as obtaining permanent residency, facilitating name changes, and providing consultations to address your specific immigration concerns. The VACC also hosts rounds of defensive asylum and other workshops to help clients successfully apply for asylum or legal residency.
- MENTAL HEALTH COUNSELING: Our professional counselors assist individuals that come to WAW in overcoming traumas and building positive coping mechanisms. This is especially crucial given numerous reports of evacuees grappling with severe anxiety, post-traumatic stress, survivors' guilt, and potentially unreported depression. In addition, our counselors extend their support to students within public schools. Unlike other organizations, WAW is able to offer mental health counseling (and all our other services) in Dari and Pashto.
- ADULT EMPOWERMENT CLASSES: The VACC offers Afghan and other immigrant women in the community classes including English, citizenship, driving test preparation, and other life-skills classes, including financial literacy.
- WOMEN’S CIRCLES: The VACC organizes monthly women's circles which provide a regular support group that offer a safe and confidential space to raise awareness among women in our community, and for them to learn about and discuss issues important to them.
The numbers of individuals, evacuees, and families served by the Virginia Community Center included:
- 2,025 clients received material assistance including cash assistance, clothing, and essential home goods.
- 1,219 clients received case management services.
- Over 60 domestic violence survivors were provided with casework support.
- 47 clients were provided with college enrollment assistance, educational advising, and financial aid.
- 340 clients received immigration and legal services fully represented by our WAW staff attorney.
- Over 450 clients attended in-person legal clinics in which WAW staff attorneys and volunteers helped them fill out and submit their asylum requests.
- 167 clients received mental health counseling including individual, couples, and family counseling, as well as serving as an advocate in different capacities.
STORIES: WAW’S IMPACT IN VIRGINIA
In 2021 and 2022, WAW’s Virginia volunteers helped set up apartments for newly-arrived Afghan refugees. They worked with Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area (LSSNCA) to ensure these apartments were welcoming and equipped with items appropriate and appreciated by Afghans.
A short video of their work can be seen here
Fatima* came to the Virginia Community Center (VACC) on June 21st, 2023, during a very challenging period in her life. She was residing in a shelter for survivors of domestic violence, four months pregnant and had three children under the age of five. Fatima had endured emotional, physical, and sexual abuse in her marriage since she was 16, not only from her husband but also from his family.
In addition to all the abuse, Fatima's husband isolated her from any form of community by controlling her access to the outside world. He controlled her internet and phone usage, restricting her from communicating with her family in Afghanistan or reaching out to anyone. She had one miscarriage directly related to his physical violence. And, during the birth of her second child, he denied her necessary medical attention and compelled her to give birth at home.
Two months after Fatima came to WAW, her husband was granted full custody of all three of their children. Fatima's husband had the money to employ a legal team, and used his professional standing and familiarity with the U.S. legal system, to file for and gain custody. Meanwhild, Fatima had no money and was only offered access to a translator.
VACC's caseworkers and mental health counselors provided Fatima with crucial emotional support during this very difficult time and through these devastating court proceedings. VACC also intervened to ensure Fatima had access to a family lawyer specializing in custody cases.
During this difficult time, Fatima has found a sense of hope, purpose, and community after joining the VACC's ESOL classes and getting mental health counseling. Our team has helped her move from the shelter into new housing. Finally, our caseworkers continue to extend their support to Fatima, and beyond regular hours, to accompany her to the police department on weekends for protective orders, and to provide translation services during her Saturday visits with the Guardian ad litem, and to advocate for her custody rights.
VACC remains steadfast in its commitment to supporting Fatima until she gets back on her feet, achieves self-sufficiency, and regains custody of her children from her abuser. WAW will continue to work with Fatima to help her rise to her evolving needs. We will make sure she receives all the assistance she needs on her journey toward independence and healing.
* WAW changes clients' names and any identifying features to protect their privacy and safety.
Women for Afghan Women (WAW) is a grassroots civil society organization dedicated to protecting and promoting the rights of disenfranchised Afghan women and girls in Afghanistan and New York. In particular, WAW works to help Afghan women and girls exercise their rights to pursue their individual potential to self-determination, and to representation in all areas of life—political, social, cultural, and economic. WAW relentlessly advocates for women’s rights and challenges the norms that underpin gender-based violence to influence attitudes and bring about change.
Women for Afghan Women is committed to working towards a world in which Afghan women and girls enjoy peace, justice, equality, and the freedoms to participate in all spheres of life and live without fear. Women for Afghan Women envisions a world in which all women and their families thrive and prosper.