ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — An Afghan family of three is celebrating this year’s holiday season in a new home in the Roanoke’s Old Southwest neighborhood.
On Friday, Dec. 24, the family moved into an apartment that was furnished with donated items from members of the community. The ‘Hope Home’ is part of Friendship House Roanoke’s Refugee Housing Program, which aims to provide safe and secure housing for refugee families.
“They kept remarking, ‘Why are you guys being so nice to us?’ We told them ‘we know what it’s like. Our families have been overseas and has been isolated. We want to love you as our friend and our neighbor and we want to welcome you into the community,'” said Executive Director Aaron Dowdy. “We just want to love them as our neighbors and be there for them as long as we can.”
Friendship House, which has been operating for more than 80 years, has been providing homes for refugee families for the last four years. It all started at “an old four square house in Old Southwest,” used as the organization’s headquarters, which had an unused apartment space inside.
“My wife and I, who manage the building, we’ve always had a heart for those in need. We’ve lived overseas. We have a heart for the international community. Knowing that there was a large refugee population in this particular part of Roanoke, we decided to use this for good,” Dowdy said. “We know a lot of times they’re isolated and they’ve fled violence or persecution or war, often times leaving loved ones behind. And now we don’t want them to be isolated any longer. We want them to be welcomed and part of the community here in Roanoke.”
The nonprofit organization has assisted about 20 families since 2017. They are currently preparing to open a fourth home for refugee families.
Friendship House says it is in need of skilled and unskilled volunteers. They specifically need people who have a background in electrical work, plumbing, home repairs and renovations, and landscaping. There is also a need for people interested in tutoring families in English.