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How you can help organizations in California working to resettle Afghan refugees

U.S. and British security forces can be seen with Afghans at the Kabul airport on Wednesday.
U.S. and British security forces can be seen with Afghans at the Kabul airport on Wednesday. Thousands of people have tried to secure flights out of Afghanistan.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

As you witness the scenes of desperation as Afghans try to secure evacuation flights out of the Kabul international airport, you might be wondering how you can help.

The U.S. was at war in Afghanistan for 20 years, so established organizations in California and around the U.S. exist to provide support to refugees. Right now, as tens of thousands of people are fleeing Afghanistan, there’s an increased and urgent need for additional aid.

When Afghan refugees make it past the first hurdle of leaving their home, they’re met with their second challenge of rebuilding their lives in the United States.

This is where you might come in. Organizations based in California and international organizations that have offices in Los Angeles are looking for volunteers, donated supplies and monetary donations for newly arriving Afghan refugees.

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Miry’s List

What it does: The Los Angeles-based organization relies on crowdsourcing and social media to connect people with a new refugee family whose needs might not be entirely met by the organizations that sponsor them. Miry’s List supports families with temporary housing, emergency supplies, rides to appointments and more. The organization works with newly arrived families all over the U.S.; 80% of the Afghan families it has worked with resettled in California.

How you can help: When a newly arrived refugee family is in their first home, apartment or motel room, Miry’s List staff will meet them and create a prioritized list of supplies. A volunteer compiles the wish list online to share with their network, ensures the family’s list needs are met and adds new items as needed. You can help by purchasing an item on the list or volunteering as a list-maker.

Miry’s List is also looking for volunteers who can offer services such as tutoring, translating, fundraising, providing transportation for newly settled families and writing welcome letters. Learn more about available volunteer opportunities and how to get involved here.

The organization is looking for donated items such as toiletries, baby rash cream, baby wipes, small home tool kits, infant and children’s acetaminophen, new infant and children’s clothing, art supplies, socks for children and adults, first aid kits, and English to Farsi dictionaries. If you would like to contribute to the welcome kits, email welcome@miryslist.org.

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International Rescue Committee

What it does: International Rescue Committee has been providing humanitarian aid and relief in Afghanistan since 1988. It has offices in Northern California, Los Angeles and San Diego. Stanford Prescott, the network communications officer for the organization, said all of the offices are currently serving recently arrived Afghan refugees and Afghans with special immigrant visas. The Los Angeles office has welcomed more than 90 Afghan refugees in recent months and anticipates many more.

How you can help: It’s looking for donations of household and infant items directly through the regional office’s Amazon and Target wish lists.

If you have an empty room in your home that can be used for emergency temporary housing, the International Rescue Committee’s partner Airbnb’s Open Homes Program allows you to host an individual or family in need. If you’re a landlord willing to rent to recently arrived refugees, you can volunteer by contacting carly.boos@rescue.org.

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The local office is also looking for people who can volunteer to provide the following services:

  • Supporting the reception and placement and community relations teams in ensuring that newly arrived refugees have necessary items in their new homes by conducting outreach, pickup and delivery of donations, conducting local donation drives and organizing donations.
  • Assisting caseworkers with the setup of new apartments and homes for families.
  • Providing English language learner services.
  • Assisting refugees in securing their first job.
  • Working one-on-one with refugees to teach the basics of building a budget, opening a bank account and other aspects of financial literacy.

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UC Berkeley crowdfunding

What it does: The university’s Human Rights Center, in partnership with San Jose State’s Human Rights Institute and the UC Berkeley Afghan Student Assn., created a crowdfunding campaign with the initial goal of providing immediate support for a leading women’s rights activist and journalist with five small children. The campaign’s goals were surpassed, so new donations will be used to support other Afghan refugees.

The university and its partners are also working to quickly secure housing placement for a law school dean and, with Scholars at Risk — an international network organization that supports academic freedom — bring others to the university to secure housing in the Bay Area.

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How you can help: The center is accepting donations to its campaign until Friday in an effort to reach its goal of $150,000.

It’s also looking for people to volunteer if they can provide translation services, a room in their home for temporary emergency housing or other resources. You can contact the university’s Human Rights Center by filling out its online form.

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Jewish Family & Community Services East Bay

What it does: Jewish Family & Community Services East Bay offers a resettlement program that has long focused on refugees who have experienced persecution based on their religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity. The majority of refugees it works with are Afghans who served as translators or provided support services for U.S. personnel in Afghanistan.

Fouzia Azizi, the director of refugee services, said Jewish Family & Community Services East Bay has welcomed almost four dozen people who were evacuated by the U.S. military before the Taliban took over Kabul and anticipate 41 more this week.

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The organization has accepted the cases of 33 individuals whose flights were canceled and are now waiting for updated arrival dates.

How you can help: In order to help arriving refugees, volunteers are put into groups of four to six members that assist case managers with airport pickups, signing up refugees for social services benefits, helping register children for school, providing English as a second language support and other related needs. To sign up for volunteer opportunities, fill out JFCS East Bay’s online Community Sponsorship form. Volunteers in each group must have a car, have weekday and daytime availability and commit to a minimum period of three to six months of volunteering.

The organization is also accepting monetary donations or asking you to consider purchasing an item from this Amazon wish list that is shipped to its Concord office and put directly in the hands of refugees.

International Institute Los Angeles

What it does: The International Institute of Los Angeles provides comprehensive services to newly resettled individuals and families, including temporary housing, airport reception, health screenings, community orientations, and assistance finding employment and child care. It’s currently coordinating the arrival and resettlement of Afghan refugees in Southern California.

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The organization has historically been funded through government contracts; however, the imminent increase in demand pushed the group to call on private support from the community.

How you can help: It’s launching the campaign Act Now for Afghan Allies with the objective of identifying people in the community who can serve as temporary hosts to a refugee family or provide vacant property, interpreters who speak Dari or Pashto, assistants to help newly arrived refugees get settled, and people who can drive new refugees to errands or medical appointments. It’s also looking for monetary, household and gently used furniture donations.

Newcomers Access Center

What it does: The Newcomers Access Center empowers refugees and immigrant families in San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties to become independent. It does this by offering services such as health and wellness workshops, translation, employment opportunities and more.

The center is also currently assisting two Rancho Cucamonga families that have relatives who visited Afghanistan and are now stranded there, trying to help them navigate the U.S. Embassy and bring them home.

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How you can help: It’s currently putting a call out for volunteers who can provide services such as assisting with airport pickups, apartment setups or bringing a meal to Afghan refugees when they arrive.

In anticipation of arriving refugees, the center is lining up community resources for temporary housing, transportation, household necessities and other services to help refugees get settled. To sign up for a volunteering opportunity or to donate, email administrator@newcomersaccesscenter.org.

Interfaith Refugee and Immigration Service

What it does: Interfaith Refugee and Immigration Service is a nonprofit, nonsectarian organization that offers refugee resettlement assistance, employment placement and immigration legal aid, as well as referrals to housing, education and health-screening resources. It’s a program of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles and the Southern California-based affiliate of Episcopal Migration Ministries.

This summer the nonprofit’s caseworkers have assisted 31 individuals and 11 families arriving from Afghanistan and are preparing to serve more.

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How you can help: To assist in meeting refugees’ basic needs, including household and personal supplies, the nonprofit welcomes financial contributions via a secure portal on its website. It’s also seeking leads to available housing for individuals or families.

As the Taliban takes unfettered control of Afghanistan, major challenges await, including at the Kabul airport, the scene of the West’s last stand.


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