NEWS

Afghan refugees celebrate Eid with support from Black Mountain community

Ezra Maille
Black Mountain News
Black Mountain community members and Afghan evacuees came together in Owen Park on May 3 to celebrate Eid.

Black Mountain community members came together with Afghan refugees on May 3 in Owen Park to celebrate the Muslim holiday of Eid.

Vicki Collins, a volunteer with the Warren Wilson Presbyterian Church, described Eid as the most festive holiday in the Muslim calendar. The celebration of Eid marks the end of Ramadan, a monthlong period of spiritual reflection through fasting.

"This is a festive time to share with family and friends," Collins said. "The refugees are all from the Asheville/Black Mountain area. They have been through a lot this past year, more than any of us can imagine."

The celebration featured a potluck of traditional Middle Eastern foods along with local favorites.

Many evacuees from Afghanistan arrived in Black Mountain and Asheville in January, fleeing the Taliban's takeover. 

More:Afghan evacuees resettling in Black Mountain, more families still to come

The Eid celebration was made up of Afghan evacuees, host families and community members. Roughly 130 people came to Owen Park to participate in the festivity.

Volunteers from nearly 20 different religious affiliates have helped support the evacuees and attended the Eid celebration.

Collins said the Black Mountain community has been welcoming and supportive to the evacuees. She said the community's generosity has allowed for the evacuees to feel welcome and provided for.

Black Mountain volunteers provided multiple tables worth of food for the event.

The community celebration included traditional Afghani dishes as well as potato salad, mac and cheese and other American favorites, potluck style. 

Wendy Ellsworth, a volunteer coordinator helping the evacuees get settled, said the community has been involved in providing transportation for families to attend prayer at the Asheville mosque, English classes at A-B Tech and doctor appointments.

The Black Mountain family she works with, Ellsworth said, left behind a whole life in Afghanistan, from a home and car to business and acres of property.

In addition to livelihood, many evacuees have left family behind. As a precaution for safety, all the names of those living in Black Mountain have been kept anonymous.

"They come here, they have to learn a language, they have to get a job," Ellsworth said. "Housing is very difficult and very expensive here."

For the Afghanis, having family and friends together to share food is an important part of Eid.

Ellsworth hopes to help the Afghanis in Black Mountain find sources of income. She said even though some of the various evacuee families don't speak the same language or come from the same area of Afghanistan, creating community together has been helpful.

"It's not been easy for them to meet other Afghans," Ellsworth said. "When you see what they've left behind you realize 'Wow. They may never be able to come home.'"

Ezra Maille covers the town of Black Mountain, Montreat and the Swannanoa Valley. Reach him at 828-230-3324 or emaille@blackmountainnews.com. Please support local journalism with access to more breaking news by subscribing.