Giving Tuesday on Nov. 30 an opportunity to support, offer thanks to local nonprofits

Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest, an Arizona nonprofit offering a Refugee Women’s Empowerment Program, is among agencies that will benefit from Giving Tuesday on Nov. 30. –Photos courtesy of Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest

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Shortly after Khlida Rahimi arrived in Phoenix in 2017, having fled her home in Kabul, Afghanistan, with her husband Abdulhaq and their two young children, she learned about hope.

It was a strange and wonderful feeling for a family forced to leave everything behind because they feared for their lives. Abdulhaq had worked for the U.S. Army at a base in Kabul, starting as a dishwasher and advancing to translator, and those were dangerous assignments.

“Without doing anything, I made a lot of enemies — the Taliban and Al-Qaeda didn’t like us,” said Abdulhaq, whose family arrived in the U.S. with Special Immigrant Visas.

Almost immediately, Khlida was connected to Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest, an Arizona nonprofit offering a Refugee Women’s Empowerment Program. She began attending free classes in English and sewing at LSS-SW’s Phoenix office, which also provides on-site child care that she gratefully used.

When COVID-19 hit, the in-person classes at LSS-SW were suspended, but Khlida continued practicing her English with a volunteer instructor and sewing from home.

“I enjoy the classes with the other women,” she said, with Abdulhaq interpreting. “I liked my teacher, and I liked practicing English with each other.”

Women’s Empowerment Programs give reassurance and hope to refugees.

LSS-SW is among Arizona nonprofits participating in Giving Tuesday, a global day of charitable giving that unleashes the power of people and organizations to transform their communities. This year’s campaign is Tuesday, Nov. 30.

Other local organizations that are involved include Tempe-based Children’s Cancer Network, which supports Arizona children battling cancer and their families, and AZCEND, formerly Chandler Christian Community Center, which helps families, senior citizens and individuals living in poverty and crisis.

Additionally, a list of nonprofits and suggestions for contributing your time, talents and treasures on Giving Tuesday is at Arizona Gives Day. Set for April 5-6, 2022, Arizona Gives Day is a collaboration of the Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits and Arizona Grantmakers, and raises funds for nonprofits statewide.

Giving Tuesday was launched in 2012 with a mission to build a more just and generous world. It couldn’t fall on a better day of the year, said LSS-SW President and CEO Connie Phillips.

“We have many days for shopping — Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday. Why shouldn’t there be a day for giving back?” Phillips said. “Giving Tuesday kick-starts our holiday-giving season in a fun and easy way. A lot of donors tell us, they love being part of something bigger than themselves. Uniting together around a cause that they care about just feels good.”

This year, LSS-SW will direct all of its Giving Tuesday contributions to its refugee women’s program, starting with a matching gift of $20,000 from Tucson resident Jim Eggert and his late wife Carolyn. This means every gift LSS-SW receives on Nov. 30 will be doubled, Phillips said.

Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest President and CEO Connie Phillips. says that the trauma of the refugee experience is often compounded for refugee women (above) because of gender-based violence and cultural expectations.

Through the WEP, she said, classes and programs are specifically tailored to the needs of refugee women, and offer a safe space for women from Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, Burma, Cuba and elsewhere.

“The trauma of the refugee experience is often compounded for refugee women because of gender-based violence and cultural expectations,” Phillips said. “These barriers can make integration into their new American home particularly challenging,”

Khlida has learned to sew holiday table decorations, cloth napkins, women’s purses and, when COVID-19 hit, face masks, many of which have been sold on its Etsy store, RefugeeMade. LSS-SW gave her a sewing machine and delivers fabric to her home, providing a way for her to support her family.

The couple will be eligible to apply for citizenship next year, and Khlida is eager to begin English lessons again to be ready for her exam.

“I love this country,” she said. “The first thing is freedom and the land of opportunity. Work and freedom. Safety. You can go anywhere, anytime. And you don’t even have to think about any risk.”

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