GVSU graduate helping hundreds of Afghan refugees transition to area

Dilli Gautam sits in a chair in front of seven country flags
Dilli Gautam, a 2014 GVSU graduate, will help Afghan refugees transition to West Michigan. As a child, Gautam spent 16 years in a refugee camp in Nepal.
Image Credit: courtesy photo

A Grand Valley alumnus who works at Bethany Christian Services is part of a team responsible for helping hundreds of Afghan refugees relocate to West Michigan.

Dilli Gautam, who earned a bachelor's degree in communication sciences and disorders in 2014, is familiar with the journey they will take. He spent 16 years in a refugee camp in Nepal and came to the United States when he was 19.

Gautam said about 230 refugees from Afghanistan are expected in West Michigan soon. After the U.S. military withdrew troops from Afghanistan, thousands of Afghans have applied for special immigration visas to resettle in the U.S.

"They have been through so much and are sad to leave the country they love so dearly but excited to see the possibilities ahead," said Gautam, who also earned a master's degree in public health from Eastern Washington University. 

In his role as Bethany's associate director of community engagement, Gautam is charged with finding other organizations, businesses and individuals to partner in this effort of helping refugees transition to West Michigan. The Afghans will stay in area hotels until housing is secured, he said. 

Gautam, who worked at the Grand Rapids Red Project before joining Bethany's team several months ago, also hopes to change the mindset of volunteers and others who assist refugees.

"Implementing best practices means changing behaviors from helping to empowering refugees, giving them resources and educating them to navigate the systems here," he said.

Visit this Bethany Christian Services website to learn more about helping Afghan refugees.