Thousands of families have recently fled Afghanistan in the wake of the US military departure and Taliban takeover.
So far, over 30,000 Afghan refugees have arrived in the United States, and most are facing challenges that many of us would find unthinkably difficult.
Afghan refugee families arriving in the U.S. are temporarily staying at military bases around the country, and will be resettling in states including Texas, the Carolinas, Florida, New Mexico, Colorado, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Washington state, the Washington DC area, and more.
Whether you live in one of these areas or not, there may be something you can do as a family to help support refugees through this extremely stressful time in their lives.
Volunteer to assist with resettlement
If you do live near a resettlement area, your family may be able to volunteer to assist with logistics such as meal assistance, apartment setup, or airport pickups. If you find a match and your help is needed, kids could accompany you on these crucial errands, or help with the meals or other preparations. Sign up on the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service website to connect with those opportunities. Also check your local branch of the International Rescue Committee to see what help may be needed.
Host a refugee or contribute to a host
Even young kids can understand that refugees will need a place to stay in their new country, so a very tangible way to help is by opening up any extra space in your home or other properties to temporarily host someone in need. One way to do this is through Airbnb’s nonprofit operation, which helps pair people in crisis (including refugees, hurricane and wildfire victims, etc.) with available spaces where they can stay. Airbnb has committed to placing 20,000 Afghan refugees. Kids can be involved in setting up the space or putting together welcome baskets. (And if you don’t have the space to host, you can still donate to support someone else who’s hosting.)
Donate everyday items
Local organizations around the U.S. are looking for specific items to help Afghan refugees set up their new homes, go to school, and live their everyday lives. Every kid can understand the need for beds, school supplies, and clothes—and kids can help shop for those items, go through their gently used things, or pick out items from online wish lists. A few examples:
- Union County, New Jersey is seeking diapers, toys, clothing, and more.
- The Welcome to America Project in Arizona lists bicycles, shoes and socks, and gift cards among its most needed supplies for refugees.
- Refugee Services of Texas has posted wish lists for toiletries, housewares, and electronics.
- Homes Not Borders in Maryland is looking for furniture as well as Amazon gift cards to buy basic supplies.
- Lutheran Social Services is asking for help to purchase laptops and house supplies for refugees settling in Maryland and Virginia.
Search for “donate supplies to Afghan refugees + [your city/state]” to find more wish lists.
Raise money to cover refugee application fees
Refugee families need to apply for humanitarian parole in order to enter the U.S. legally. The application costs $575 per person, even if applicants are in the same family, so those costs add up quickly for families. You can contribute in a concrete way by donating to the Afghan Resources Project run by Pangea Legal Services, which is helping to cover those application fees and guide people through the application process. Kids can be involved in raising money by collecting spare change from around the house, selling old books or clothes, setting up a lemonade or baked good stand, starting a social media campaign, etc. As with all of the above suggestions, search for local opportunities to donate, so that the impact will be more tangible for you and your kids.
Learn more about Afghanistan and its culture
If your kids are going to be welcoming new Afghan classmates or neighbors—or if you just want some resources to learn as a family about what’s currently happening with the crisis in Afghanistan—here are some resources to start with:
- National Geographic Kids’ facts about Afghanistan
- Afghanistan for Kids by professors at Arizona State University
- The Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, explained by CBC Kids News
- Refugee Stories from Iraq and Afghanistan, a book list
- How to Talk to Your Kids About the Refugee Crisis (for parents)
Advocate for more action
If older kids feel strongly about what’s going on and feel that their local, state, or federal government could be doing more for refugees or for the Afghan people in general, they may be inspired to contact an elected official. You can help them look up contact information for their representatives and write a postcard, letter, or email. Or you can help them read and understand a petition (here’s one example, and here’s another) and ask if they’d like for you to sign it on their behalf and share it on social media.
Think beyond the current moment
It’s important to know that refugees have been coming from Afghanistan for decades now, and more are expected to flee, so this situation is not entirely new and is also not limited to the current spike in media attention. Listen to stories of refugee families who have come in the past, and understand that adjusting to life in the U.S. will take a long time. Read one of these stories along with older kids to help them gain a deeper understanding of what’s going on. Even if your family can’t provide direct support to refugees right now, there will likely be more opportunities in the future. Think about ways to be more welcoming of new neighbors/classmates for years to come, and brainstorm ideas with kids.