On Monday, the couple’s charitable foundation, Archewell, published its annual impact report, revealing a new initiative called The Welcome Project. The women-led program is designed to help recently resettled Afghan women build community and find a sense of belonging through different group activities such as hiking, swimming, cooking, photography and sewing.
Nearly 90,000 Afghan refugees have relocated to the United States since August 2021 through Operation Allies Welcome, according to the State Department. This extensive resettlement initiative took place in the aftermath of the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, concluding a military presence that spanned over two decades.
The idea for The Welcome Project apparently began when the Duke and Duchess of Sussex paid a visit to a military base in New Jersey in 2021 – Harry served a decade in the British army and two tours in Afghanistan – and met displaced Afghan families who were living there.
“In speaking with many of the women, The Duchess found they were not only in need of basics, like winter coats, but something more profound: a place to build community, a space to cook, a forum to talk to one another, and a safe haven to spend time in good company,” the report reads.
Data from the National Institutes of Health shows that migrants and refugees are highly vulnerable to feelings of social isolation, as they are more prone to cultural differences and language barriers.
When brainstorming how to help those women, Markle was reminded of the Hubb Community Kitchen – a space in London created in 2017 to support women survivors of the Grenfell Tower fires, which killed 72 people, many of whom were migrants. Markle spent time cooking with these women and suggested they publish a cookbook to raise money for the community kitchen.
In 2018, Markle helped with the publication of “Together: Our Community Cookbook,” which features the women’s recipes from the Middle East, North Africa, Europe and Eastern Mediterranean. In the foreword, Markle emphasized the importance of those women having a space of their own. “Their roles as matriarchs united them across their cultures; the kitchen provided an opportunity to cook what they knew and to taste the memory of home, albeit homes some had recently lost,” she wrote.
Now, with the influx of women displaced from their homes in Afghanistan, it’s perhaps no surprise that the Duchess felt compelled to help Afghan women build community in the same way she’d done with Hubb Community Kitchen. The Welcome Project follows a similar model by hosting “Welcome Dinners” to bring participants together for meals, in addition to each group’s planned activities.
Currently, the programs are being hosted in 11 cities across the United States. The Archewell foundation didn’t indicate how many women participate, but noted that the majority reported feeling an increased sense of social connection and decreased feelings of loneliness.
The report added that The Welcome Project aims to provide participants with opportunities for education and employment.
“We know that when women are well-resourced and empowered to direct their own futures, they not only build a better life for themselves, but also dramatically improve the lives of those around them, their families and their communities,” the report reads. “Supporting women means supporting communities.”