Since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan last summer, approximately 74,000 Afghans have arrived in the United States in search of shelter and safety.
As Afghan families, and families from many other countries, started arriving in our communities, refugee resettlement agencies, non-profit organizations, local governments, religious organizations, and individuals have mobilized, welcoming new arrivals with airport arrivals, clothes, diapers, and places to live.
There is so much going on in the world, and we are so grateful that the CTF community does all they can to support refugee families all over the world. To that end, we wanted to share some specific tips and information for those who’d like to support families in resettlement.
1. Find a local organization
Your first step should be finding an organization in your community that needs support–whether that’s volunteering your time, sourcing aid, or spreading awareness. There are all kinds of organizations working to support newly arrived refugees, from refugee resettlement agencies to nonprofit organizations, and communities of faith. Do some online research and ask around to find an organization that fits your needs.
2. Be flexible
With so many families arriving and so many organizations in the mix, it’s important to stay flexible and nimble. In many cases, individual families may be getting support from multiple agencies and organizations. It’s a patchwork of aid and resources, and needs are always shifting. For example, as we were busy sourcing clothes for a mother’s young children, she received a whole box of clothes and toys from another group of caring individuals–and that’s great! We pivoted and found families that could use the items we’d procured and it all worked out–with a bit of patience, a few games of telephone, and a teamwork approach.
3. Be patient
It’s hard to wait patiently when you’re eager to help, but it’s important to be patient with the local organizations you’re working with. Years of record-low refugee arrivals set by the previous presidential administration, paired with a global pandemic, mean that refugee resettlement organizations are seriously understaffed and underfunded. They’re working as fast as they can to pair families with volunteers, so a little patience and grace goes a long way.
4. Ask your network for help
Once you have your assignment, ask for support from your friends, family members, neighbors, and colleagues. You’ll find that many people want to help and will give generously, but they just need to know what to do. Make a specific ask that is easy to act on: “I need size small women’s clothes. Can you collect some?” or “Are you willing to purchase a winter coat for a six-year-old boy.” Depending on what you’re collecting, setting up an Amazon Wish List makes it easy for people to help from the comfort of their home.
5. Let go of your expectations
Many of the Afghan families arriving in our communities have experienced significant trauma. At the minimum, they’ve had to leave their homes, loved ones, and belongings behind, fleeing halfway around the world to find safety. Worse, many have suffered violence and persecution at the hands of the Taliban. That’s why it’s incredibly important to listen first, act with compassion and empathy, and let the families and organizations you’re supporting take the lead in letting you know what the most pressing needs are. No matter how simple your assignment may be, rest assured that you’re making a difference.
6. Work with Carry the Future!
As refugees from Afghanistan and elsewhere continue to arrive in our communities, Carry the Future is working on some exciting initiatives that will allow our supporters to help in a hands-on way in their own communities. Stay tuned for details on our upcoming Diaper Drive!