Help an Afghan family move to Idaho Falls this International Refugee Awareness Day - East Idaho News
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Help an Afghan family move to Idaho Falls this International Refugee Awareness Day

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IDAHO FALLS — In honor of International Refugee Awareness Day Thursday, an Idaho Falls couple — Erika Mittermaier and Jeremias Pink — is organizing an effort to bring a family of Afghan refugees to Idaho Falls.

The Afghan family of four consists of two parents and a 10 and eight-year-old boy. The mother was a math professor in Afghanistan and the husband worked for the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs promoting women’s rights.

“That is like a target on each of their heads once the Taliban took control, and they had to leave the country,” Mittermaier said.

The family is currently living in a refugee camp in Nairobi, Kenya, where the boys are unable to attend school.

They have their paperwork in order and have been granted P-2 status by the U.S. State Department, which means that they have been officially designated as “refugees” and are eligible for resettlement in the United States.

To protect their identity and the safety of their relatives in Afghanistan, is not publishing their names or photographs.

Under the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, managed by the U.S. State Department, U.S. Department of Homeland Security U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement, applicants receive “extensive security vetting.”

“We’re trying to fundraise for them to be able to come here,” Mittermaier said.

Mittermaier and Pink have established Welcome Corps IF to help raise support for the resettlement efforts.

Welcome Corps is a federal program that was founded in January 2023 and allows individuals and members of a community to come together to support new refugees establishing their lives in the United States of America.

The group is required to raise at least $2,425 per refugee before they can submit an application, Mittermaier said.

“It is a really effective way to get refugees settled. It ensures they get settled properly, and they’re not just abandoned,” she explained. “If they go through the Welcome Corps process, they’re not eligible for any of the other federal welfare kind of programs. Basically, there’s no double-dipping.”

The group is required to have enough funds to provide housing and transportation for the family for 90 days or more.

Then “they can transition to getting a job and making sure their English is where it needs to be,” Mittermaier said.

Both of the parents are already quite proficient in English.

“I think they’d be a great success story,” she said.

Currently, the group has raised $800 of the $10,000 required to bring the family to Idaho Falls.

Ideally, they would like to raise $20,000 to further their efforts.

“It being International Refugee Awareness Day, we were really hoping that we could get enough money to get their application in,” Mittermaier said. “Then we’re going to hopefully keep going, and get other people involved to be able to get multiple families sponsored even beyond this family.”

Those wishing to support the Afghan family can contribute at You can also text 53555HELPOTHERS to contribute.

“This is a very direct, tangible way to help people. There’s so much going on in the world right now, … and this is a really effective way to help a family,” she said.

The effort builds on the success of others in the community who have helped refugees safely transition to life in Idaho Falls.

In 2022, Joe and Kim Mitchell raised enough money to help resettle three Afghan pilots who had escaped from Afghanistan following the takeover of the Taliban in 2021.

“The wife (of this family) is actually related to one of the pilots,” Mittermaier said.
RELATED | Local couple rescued 3 Afghan refugees, and how one of them is adapting to life in eastern Idaho

A total of 56 Afghan pilots have resettled in the U.S., six of whom live in Idaho.

RELATED | These Afghan pilots’ hearts belong in the sky. Idahoans can help them soar.

The Mitchells have also assisted a family from Ukraine in relocating to Idaho Falls and establishing a new life here.

“The folks who have already settled have been incredible success stories, and Idaho Falls has actually embraced them fully,” Mittermaier said. “They’ve been super supportive, they have jobs and are doing just fine. (The pilots) are trying to get their wives here now.”

If a business, group, organization or individual would like to make a tax deductible donation, they can also send it to the Mitchell’s Idaho Falls Bridge Builder’s organization, which is a registered 501(c) nonprofit, via check or Venmo @Joseph-Mitchell-229. Bridge Builders can then route the donation to Welcome Corps IF. For more details contact

According to the Welcome Corps IF website, “a refugee is a person who cannot return to their home country because their lives are in danger.”

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reports that “117.3 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide at the end of 2023 as a result of persecution, conflict, violence, human rights violations or events seriously disturbing the public order.” Approximately 37.6 million of these are refugees.

The U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act adds that refugees cannot return to their native land because of “persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.”

Since the 1980s, millions of refugees have resettled in the U.S. The new Welcome Corps program provides a way for citizens to be directly involved in fundraising for and supporting refugees.

While every refugee’s experience can vary, Mittermaier said they face common challenges.

“It’s just the shock of having to start a new life and in a foreign country,” she said. “… I think it’s rewarding to hear how optimistic they are, which is, like, really positive. I can’t imagine being in that situation and keeping high spirits up for so long. It’s been very inspirational!”

Erika and Jeremias | Courtesy Erika Mittermaier
Husband and wife Jeremias Pink and Erika Mittermaier recently launched Welcome Corps IF after hosting a foreign exchange student, and are eager to help a family of Afghan refugees move to Idaho Falls. | Courtesy Erika Mittermaier