Where you can volunteer, donate and more in Philadelphia
As Taliban forces continue to take control of Afghanistan, tens of thousands of people are trying to flee the country and seek refuge in the United States and elsewhere. Numerous fear what the return of the Taliban regime will mean for the citizens of the country in general, and for women and girls in particular.
According to a Pentagon announcement this week, the US government intends to settle some 22,000 refugees coming to the country and temporarily house them in military bases, according to the Washington Post. And, according to the State Department, Philadelphia is one of many US cities on the verge of accepting Afghan Special Immigrant Visa holders.
So what can you do to help? Many local, national and international groups seek help for asylum seekers. You can donate money or supplies, or volunteer your time.
Here are some ways you may be able to help:
The Philadelphia-based Nationalities Service Center (NSC) states that “as a refugee resettlement agency, we are ready to provide refuge to men, women and children fleeing the Taliban regime.” Here are some things you can help them do:
Volunteer to meet refugees at the airport and help them settle into their new home.
Assistance in setting up housing for new refugees, helping to clean a house or transforming it into a safe and comfortable living space. If you are a homeowner and can help find suitable accommodation, contact Eduardo Esquivel of NSC at [email protected]
Make or give meals, especially Afghan food, so that refugees have familiar and comforting food upon arrival.
HIAS Pennsylvania, also based in Philly, also suggests a few options for people looking to volunteer:
Help resettle refugees with temporary housing through HIAS Pennsylvania’s partnership with Airbnb’s Open Homes initiative, where you can “use your extra space to provide a welcoming stay for refugees”. More information is available on the HIAS Pennsylvania website.
Real estate agents and landlords who can provide affordable housing refugees for six months to a year should contact Community Engagement Specialist Anneke Kat at [email protected]
If you speak Dari or Pashto and would like to help interpret, you can sign with the Philadelphia Medical Reserve Corps (MRC). This group consists of more than 2,500 volunteers to assist the city “during public health emergencies and large-scale events”. You can volunteer with the MRC by visiting Pennsylvania Emergency Volunteer Registry (SERVPA) website.
National focus Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) is also looking for volunteers to help with airport pick-up, accommodation and the provision of meals to refugees. Currently, this group is focused on the Washington metro area and parts of Texas and Washington state, but you can sign up for their general waitlist here.
Both organizations use the money to buy furniture, bedding, dishes and toys for families who have left everything behind.
There are many organizations that you can donate money to to help. For example, the Afghan-American Foundation To a list of 20 organizations that it considers “established, approved and reputable” that you can support.
Whichever organization you choose, you can first check them out on websites like Charity browser, which rates nonprofits and recommends credible charities.
LIRS Neighbors in Need: Afghan Allies Fund, which focuses on helping provide food, shelter, clothing and other basic needs.
The Bamyan Foundation helps reestablish the now closed Marefat School, the only co-ed school in Afghanistan, and resettle girls and teachers who may leave the country.
The Afghan Girls’ Financial Aid Fund, helps Afghan girls get scholarships at American universities.
If you prefer to donate other than cash, the NSC and HIAS Pennsylvania have a few suggestions:
If you need help for a friend, colleague or family member in Afghanistan, there are different processes for US citizens, as well as for those eligible for special programs. Here are some resources for where to start:
You can also contact your Senator or Representative in Congress. You can find out who your representative is and how to contact them on the US House of Representatives website , and the same information is available to Senators on Congress.gov.
If you are helping leading women or women’s rights activists, the American Committee for Refugees and Immigrants suggests by contacting the Department of State’s Office of Global Women’s Issues at [email protected] This office can help evacuate women and girls in particular.
Columnist Trudy Rubin contributed to this article.