Special Projects Fund

Grantee Name

New York Immigration Coalition; Jewish Family Services of Western New York

Funding Area

Special Projects Fund

Publication Date

September 2023

Grant Amount

$75,000 to New York Immigration Coalition; $125,000 to Jewish Family Services of Western New York

Grant Date:

November 2021 – December 2022

In August 2021, U.S. armed forces completed their withdrawal from Afghanistan to officially end the war, leaving behind a humanitarian crisis.

The Taliban quickly retook the country, making many Afghans vulnerable to persecution. Since August 2021, more than 1.6 million Afghans have fled the country and more than 78,000 have been resettled across the United States—with 2,700 now living in New York State. Most of them have been categorized as humanitarian parolees, and their eligibility for resettlement services has been changing on a regular basis. It is unclear if they will have long-term access to public benefits like Medicaid, be eligible for Office of Refugee Resettlement-funded services, or have any kind of path to permanent residency and/or citizenship. Refugee resettlement agencies frequently aid individuals with severe post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression, and they typically rely on mental health and health care providers to meet the physical and mental health needs of arriving refugees. In 2021, NYHealth awarded the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) and Jewish Family Services of Western New York (JFS) complementary grants to provide and coordinate services and help Afghan refugees resettling in New York State navigate complex bureaucracies.

Outcomes and Lessons Learned

Under this grant, NYIC:

  • Acted as a leading voice advocating on behalf of arriving Afghan refugees on issues related to Temporary Protected Status, visa processing, and welcoming refugees in New York.
  • Established the Afghan Fund to support local organizations in providing Afghan evacuees with legal, health, and wellness services, as well as to engage in advocacy.
  • Awarded $20,000 re-grants to four organizations: Journey’s End Refugee Services (Buffalo); Neighbors Link (Westchester); United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (Albany); and Volunteers Lawyers Project of Central New York (Syracuse).
  • Collectively, these organizations provided more than 450 Afghans with legal services and connected them to health and wellness services through direct services and/or referrals.
  • Monitored the impact of federal changes on Afghan refugees in New York State and developed education materials in multiple languages.
  • Disseminated information and resources on Afghan evacuations and resettlement through a New York State Community Toolkit that reached more than 13,000 members, partners, and community leaders statewide.
  • Hosted briefings and conducted public education to elevate the urgent need for federal and State policy changes, including a pathway to permanent residency and citizenship for Afghan evacuees.


NYIC leveraged its 200-member coalition to support immigrant families arriving in New York. The framework and experience from NYIC’s efforts with Afghan refugees laid the groundwork for its recently launched Welcoming New York campaign, which mobilizes resources to support arriving refugees, asylees, and migrants. It continues to focus on ensuring access to service coordination for emergency shelter, health care, housing, legal assistance, food, and other essentials.

There were some promising policy developments during the course of the project. The bipartisan Afghan Adjustment Act was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate in 2022 to provide a pathway to permanent residency and citizenship for Afghan evacuees. While it was not passed, the bill was re-introduced in the summer of 2023 and continues to have strong support.

Under this grant, JFS:

  • Hired a dedicated Psychosocial Support Specialist to engage the Afghan community and deliver holistic mental health support—including cultural orientation, supportive counseling, support groups, mental health first aid, and mental health assessments.
  • Partnered with Jericho Road Community Health Center to create a presence among new arrivals, build trust and rapport, promote mental health awareness, and provide mental screenings on site.
  • Provided cultural orientation to new arrivals at minimum once per month.
  • Screened more than 200 individuals for psychosocial support services and provided one-on-one supportive counseling and group counseling to more than 175 individuals.
  • Coordinated with all local refugee resettlement agencies to develop a process to refer clients with psychosocial support needs to JFS.
  • Provided brief supportive counseling to 21 families and/or individuals, providing referrals to more intensive treatment when needed. Common counseling topics included nightmares, domestic violence, marital conflict, infertility, post-war trauma, grief and loss, acculturation, and loss of identity.
  • Created a six-week support group curriculum specifically tailored to the Afghan refugee community, covering topics like emotional wellbeing, coping and self-care, dealing with loss, and combating social anxiety. Offered and completed four group series: two for men and two for women.
  • Launched an outreach campaign to engage the community and promote the availability of mental health and counseling services, including attending community events and texting and letter campaigns.
  • Engaged key partners, including MESAA (an Afghan American community group), local mosques, Volunteer Lawyers Project, Providence Farm Collective, and the Buffalo public school system. Partners supported clients with navigating the health care system, school enrollment, vaccination, and tax preparation.


Based on the success of the model established under this grant, JFS is continuing to operate the program with a new, sustainable source of funding that addresses mental health and medical needs for highly vulnerable populations across both Erie and Niagara counties. It has expanded the program to include two more psychosocial support specialist positions, and it plans work with the wider refugee and immigrant community.

Read a story about Pazir, an Afghan refugee who re-established his life in Buffalo with the help of counselors from JFS.

Co-Funding and Additional Funds Leveraged: NYIC’s Afghan Fund received $190,000 in contributions from other 6 funders, including the Lucius N. Littauer Foundation, HSBC Bank, and Silver Lake.