(NEW YORK) – As Americans across the country watch the situation in Afghanistan become increasingly chaotic, many are probably wondering how to help the thousands of Afghan nationals who have fled their country.
Many of them fled with only a small suitcase or even just the clothes on their backs, leaving a major challenge in settling into a new life.
There are many ways to help incoming refugees settle in the United States, from donating goods and services to volunteering to run errands and support other needs. Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, chief executive officer of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, a non-profit organization that assists with the resettlement of refugees, said there was a need for basic necessities and relief assistance. cash.
“The goods contributions are so helpful that we provide these basic necessities to these families and children during the first few days and weeks on American soil,” O’Mara Vignarajah told ABC News. “You know some of these families literally have no connection here in the United States.”
Aundrea Paulett, who works for external affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan, said the needs also go beyond the basics, citing the importance of volunteers in driving refugees to their appointments, to help translate and to help with legal services when it comes to navigating the immigration system.
Paulett also encouraged people to “be very patient” with refugees as they may face culture shock.
“They won’t know English so patience will be the biggest key to making them feel safe here,” Paulett said.
But Paulett and O’Mara Vignarajah also noted that people should be careful about where their donations go. O’Mara Vignarajah said there are many established and well-controlled organizations that are able to navigate the complexities of settling refugee families. Paulett also said local mosques are a good place to donate, as mosques can provide connections and support to newly settled refugees.
Beyond goods and services, groups are urging Americans to exercise political power and contribute through activism.
“At this critical time, we also need public pressure on the Biden administration to keep America’s promise to protect Afghan allies,” said Nisha Agarwal, deputy executive director of International Refugee Assistance. Project, in a statement to ABC News. “The US government must secure Kabul airport and ensure continued access to it to significantly expand the evacuation of allies and Afghan refugees before it is too late.”
O’Mara Vignarajah said it was an effort on the bridge to help refugee families settle. Much of that effort will come from community members who feel compelled to help, especially in states like California, Texas and Virginia, who are ready to accept large numbers of refugees, according to Paulett.
One of those community members is Fatima Popal, one of the co-owners of a group that operates Washington, DC, Lapis and The Berliner restaurants. Popal used social media to collect donations of supplies, including clothing, housewares, toiletries and gift cards.
“As Afghans, we felt a little helpless sitting here, unable to do anything for our homeland, for our people,” Popal said. “And so we decided that we couldn’t just sit here and do nothing, so the best thing we can do is try to help those who are relocating here to the… area, and try to make their transition a little smoother by getting all these gifts. “
Popal partnered with organizations such as the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service and the International Rescue Committee to get donations where they were needed most. Popal said the outpouring of “love and support” from the community was inspiring.
“It’s just one of the nicest things, considering what’s going on in the world, not just in Afghanistan, but everywhere else,” Popal said. “So you can see that humanity is still not lost and that is the beauty of what I see today and the people who volunteer and donate.”
Here are some organizations that accept donations for Afghan refugees:
International Refugee Assistance Project
Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service
Women for Afghan women
International Rescue Committee
Committee to Protect Journalists
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.