CIE Establishes an Afghan Women Refugee Group in Amherst

Thanks to the generous donations from CIE graduates during the spring 2022, UMass Gives campaign, CIE in partnership with Catholic Charities, and Focusing Initiatives International, has established a support group for recent Afghan women refugees in Western Massachusetts.



The group brings together isolated Afghan women into a community with each other, to connect them with resources, and to provide a safe environment to learn about America’s cultures and practices. The culture of the group is to build on women’s strengths to enable them to find their own unique solutions to the challenges of resettlement and acculturation into Western Massachusetts.


The monthly ‘Empowerment Teas’ as they’ve come to be called, are facilitated by female Afghan students and others from the five-colleges who serve as facilitators, leading the women in prayer, problem-solving everyday resettlement challenges, well-being exercises, and sharing food together.  Well-being also includes talking about things they miss such as weddings with music, food and separate dancing halls for men and women, Halal food being everywhere, helping each other.


Approximately 15 women participate along with their children. Once a month they gather in Furcolo, with the women’s activities in one room, while their children are engaged in various activities in a separate room. Each meeting with the women has two components: a cultural acclimation component, and a community wellness activity. The women have identified themes such as driving, English language learning, legal support, entrepreneurial opportunities; i.e. tailoring, cooking and western expectations of child behavior and parenting. One or more of these is selected as a focus for each meeting.


CIE has provided leadership and support with Javid Mussawy, a current CIE doctoral student, Ian Barron, the CIE Director, and Barbara Gravin Wilbur all taking on various responsibilities. [10-22]