You’ve lived in a combat country for most of your life. You know nothing different because this is what you are used to. Suddenly everything you knew to be normal (though not normal for non-war countries) has come to a screeching halt.
Your ally’s military presence has disappeared overnight. Your country’s leader, whom you trusted to protect you, has fled and is nowhere to be found. You are confused, you don’t understand why your president has abandoned you and a new regime has instantly taken over the country. You’ve only heard stories of how bad it used to be because you were too young to understand what was happening the last time they were in charge. But you know it’s bad, and you know your life is suddenly in danger because you’ve been working as an interpreter assisting your ally’s military force to prevent the current regime from ever coming into power.
You fear for your life, you fear for your family. You panic and you want to leave your country immediately. You’re not thinking about the future. You don’t have time to plan, you just know you need to get the hell out of your country right now. You scramble to gather some clothes and your family. You leave your beautiful home and the life that you built. You don’t say goodbye to your friends or your relatives. There’s no time. You don’t know if you will ever see them again. You hope that they will be able to leave the country as well, but some of them can’t afford to buy a plane ticket or are simply not eligible for a Special Immigrant Visa.
Almost 200,000 refugees have been evacuated from Afghanistan in the past month.
Out of those about 24,000 have arrived in the U.S. since August 17th. Under normal circumstances, refugees are allowed to bring two suitcases per person up to 50 kg (just over 110 lbs), but because of the need to transport large amounts of people at once, not much room was left on the planes for personal belongings. In some cases many of these individuals fled quickly, with not enough time to pack essential items, some leaving their home country with just the clothes on their backs.
Refugee assistance is also not free. Many times individuals are given a loan to pay for travel costs but they eventually have to pay it back. They arrive in the U.S. safe from a life threatening environment only to start their new journey with a large financial debt, no housing, no community, no jobs and a mountain of uncertainty.
While the U.S. is no stranger to accommodating refugees, COVID has complicated this emergency transition. Many Americans have come together to provide donations but non-profits cannot currently make use of these donations for health and safety reasons.
Donations are needed nonetheless. Organizations with set protocols to help transition refugees are overwhelmed and understaffed. But you can help and here’s how:
Purchase brand new items such as clothing, household supplies, toiletries, and over the counter medication, instead of providing used items. Another option besides cash donations to charities is donating gift cards, non-perishable foods.
Again because of COVID concerns the option to host a refugee family is complicated. If you feel comfortable you can participate in Airbnb’s Host a Stay program or you can donate to the program so they can stay somewhere else. Or you can donate money to a non-profit that provides refugee assistance to help pay for temporary hotel stays.
Catholic Charities is well known for their refugee assistance services.
No One Left Behind is a BBB accredited charity and nation-wide association of wartime allies in the US dedicated to ensuring that America keeps its promise to our interpreters from Iraq and Afghanistan. You can offer donations directly to them.
World Relief helps families find housing, learn English, pursue employment, build friendships and create long-term support systems. They also partner with local organizations to provide trauma counseling, mother and parent groups, and safe spaces and literacy clubs for refugee children to learn, grow and play.
Combined Arms not in California but they do a lot of work to help transition refugees into the U.S.