How to Help Afghan Refugees Arrive in Southern California – Pasadena Star News

When Irvine resident Nasim Fekrat saw reports of Afghan refugees entering southern California, he knew he wanted to help.

He also understood their need. Fekrat immigrated from Afghanistan in 2009. The 38-year-old is now a PhD student at UC Irvine studying anthropology with a focus on the experiences of Afghan immigrants and their effects on them.

“I can feel how difficult it is to leave your home and arrive in a completely strange place,” said Fekrat. He also added, “We all need help in one way or another. As the old saying goes, what goes around comes around. “

Coverage of Afghans fleeing their country following the withdrawal of U.S. forces and the Taliban seizure of power has led residents across southern California to reach out to local political leaders, media and nonprofits to ask how they do to be able to help.

Not everyone has the personal connection or the linguistic and cultural skills that Fekrat brings with him. But organizations working to move Afghan evacuees to local communities say everyone can do something.

“We are looking for community support to welcome these families,” said Stanford Prescott, a spokesman for the local branch of the International Rescue Committee, which helps Afghans start new lives in Los Angeles and San Diego.

One challenge is that some of the Afghans who fled the chaos before the deadline for US forces withdrawal on Tuesday and many who are still finding ways out have not been officially expelled as “refugees,” noted Masih Fouladi, spokesman for CAIR-LA, a Muslim civil rights group still trying to help 140 people flee Afghanistan.

The term is used generally, but only officially Refugees are guaranteed certain benefits. Designated resettlement agencies pick up refugees from the airport, organize accommodation, help them to apply for social security cards and register their children in school. Federal funding helps cover many of these costs for several weeks after the refugees arrive, though refugee resettlement groups – including Anaheim-based Access California Services – still need financial and volunteer support to help the huge wave of families to support who are coming now.

But there are strict requirements to be granted official refugee status, noted Fouladi, and the process can take months or even years. So many of the Afghans arriving now have “humanitarian parole” status, which is used for immigration emergencies. This status does not come with the same financial benefits and support systems as official refugees.

With the high cost of living in Southern California, the biggest challenge is finding affordable housing quickly. But organizations say newcomers also need help with decorating their home, from finding translators who speak Dari or Pashto to finding work.

This is where local nonprofits – and the community members who support them – come in.

Here is a round-up of local organizations that are providing direct assistance to Afghan families upon arrival in Southern California. All rely on financial support, but also offer other ways in which residents can support their efforts.

Sahaba Initiative

This San Bernardino-based nonprofit regularly supports low-income families with a weekly pantry and other outreach. Now founding President Arbazz Mohammed said they are preparing to sponsor four or five Afghan families expected in the next few weeks, at a cost of about $ 25,000 per family.

A particular need, said Mohammed, is to find cars for these families. They’re also looking for cheap rental housing in the Inland Empire. And donations for their Saturday pantry are always welcome as these items are also used to support Afghan families. For more information, please visit or email [email protected]

International Institute of Los Angeles

This organization has been helping immigrants integrate into their new life in Los Angeles for more than 100 years. They relocated 47 families in August and expect to help 350 Afghan evacuees the next year.

The institute is looking for families who would like to provide newly arriving Afghans – especially families with five or more people – with temporary accommodation, as well as landlords who can help with long-term accommodation.

They are also creating a bank of volunteers ready to pick up evacuees from the airport, help set up new houses, and arrange transportation for families. There is a particular need for Dari or Pashto speakers to help with translation and for employers who provide employment opportunities for refugees. Volunteers can sign up by clicking the “Act Now For Afghan Allies” button on or by calling 323-224-3800.

World Relief Southern California

This Garden Grove-based nonprofit is the local arm of a Christian humanitarian organization that helps people in dire need worldwide following events such as natural disasters and mass displacement due to conflict – including the 20 Years War in Afghanistan.

If area residents are interested in accompanying Afghan families and helping them arrive, spokesman Jose Serrano said they can contact World Relief Southern California at 714-210-4730 or [email protected] .

Residents can also create family welcome kits with new toiletries, cleaning supplies, household items, school supplies, and more, and then drop them off at the Garden Grove office. For more information and donations, visit

Tiyya Foundation

This non-profit organization with offices in Santa Ana and Los Angeles has been supporting Afghan refugee families since 2010. But in the face of a new wave of families, founder Meymuna Hussein-Cattan said housing is a top priority.

“Anyone who has an extra room, a secret annex, a mother-in-law suite, etc. that can open their doors is very much appreciated,” she said.

Residents who already have Airbnb properties can register to offer them as temporary accommodation for Afghan refugees, with fees for 20,000 properties being met through donations to Airbnb’s nonprofit arm. Learn more and sign up at

The foundation also accepts store gift cards that Afghan families can use to purchase supplies such as toiletries and diapers. Learn more at or 714-547-5050.

International Rescue Committee

The Glendale-based office of this international group is also encouraging Airbnb hosts to sign up for the Open Homes program to provide temporary housing to Afghan families. For long-term living, LA landlords looking to rent to recently arrived refugees can contact [email protected]

The IRC has set up Amazon and Target wishlists for local comers where people can buy items online and have them shipped to their offices for distribution when needed. They also recruit volunteers for a variety of services. More information and registration can be found at

Voice of the refugees

This Anaheim-based group works with churches, corporations, and volunteers to help refugees build new lives in Southern California. On Thursday September 2, Executive Director Joe Guidotti said they helped 75 refugee families get free groceries, clothes and household items. More and more volunteers are needed, he said.

Voice of Refugees accepts donations from carefully used clothing and furniture for future giveaway events. They also have a registry through Walmart that allows people to purchase items like linens and microwaves that are used to decorate homes for arriving Afghan families. To participate, visit or call 714-277-6843.

Here are other local organizations that help Afghan families:

Afghan Literacy Foundation in Redondo Beach

– Access center for newcomers in Pomona

Orange County Catholic Charities in Santa Ana

–Miry’s list in Los Angeles

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