Two years ago, the world witnessed the fall of Afghanistan’s capital city, Kabul, and the Taliban retake control. These events were disastrous for the country. The number of Afghans living below the poverty line grew rapidly, as many Afghans lost their salaries or jobs and were unable to afford food and essential supplies. Severe restrictions were placed on young girls and women, and to this day, there are growing humanitarian needs throughout the country.
Footage and images from August 2021 were heart-wrenching, as Afghans struggled to get on the last commercial flights and U.S. military planes departing the Kabul airport. The U.S. government offered refuge to thousands of Afghans, evacuating journalists, human rights activists, humanitarian workers, and other Afghans whose careers put them at risk, as well as family members of American citizens and lawful permanent residents. More than 90,000 Afghans have found safety in the United States, while millions still live under Taliban rule. In fact, every person that Oregon has welcomed has family, friends, and community back in Afghanistan who could not join them.
In the last two years, Refugee Care Collective has served 862 people from Afghanistan – families, couples, single parents, and individuals who had to leave their families to escape to safety. As many families arrived with nothing more than a suitcase, we provided essential household items through our Restart Kits Program. New sheets and comforters, dishes, bathroom towels, and more. Many families received winter coats, school supplies, and grocery gift cards through other Immediate Assistance Programs. We then paired families with volunteer mentors through our Mentorship Programs, to provide wraparound support as they adjusted to life in the United States.
We asked some of our Afghan neighbors to share their insights with us:
What do you wish more people knew about your country or Afghan people?
“Afghans are loyal and honest people. Once you become friends, you are friends for life. They will trust and share everything with you.”
“We wish people would not confuse Afghans with Arabs or people from the Middle East, as Afghanistan is not located in the Middle East. It is a South Central Asian country composed of many different ethnicities.”
“Afghans take great pride in their hospitality. It is considered an honor to host guests. It’s ok to visit us whenever you have time! If we gave you a gift, we don’t expect you to give us anything back.”
“We appreciate everything that the community helped us with and will never forget! We hope to have connection with supporters after their services.”
How have people helped you since arriving in Oregon?
“Some taught us how to use the buses and trains, showed us where to purchase cost-effective food and helped us with groceries, donated gift cards, and clothes for our children.”
“We received blankets, dishes to eat with, everything we needed came in nice bins. It meant so much to us.”
“Our volunteers, especially the church groups, offered for us to live in a furnished house, visited our families at least once or twice a week and made sure we had food and necessary items like baby formula and diapers, clothing and shoes.”
“They helped us with making appointments, arranging for interpreters and transportation. Some groups offered in-person English tutoring for both adults and children, some even helped the children with their school work.”
Many families shared that they still need help with:
“Finding affordable housing and jobs, and filling out applications since we’re still learning different processes. With this, additional support on paying bills and setting up auto pay.”
“Help with shopping for affordable groceries using coupons and discount programs, because we no longer qualify for SNAP benefits.”
“Making medical and dental appointments. For families who do not read or write yet, they are more likely to miss appointments, because of misunderstandings and not knowing how to give their address, date of birth, etc.”
“Learning English, especially for moms with small children and without transportation. Additionally, support and work opportunities for stay-at-home moms.”
Our Family Mentorship Program works to address these needs. Learn more about becoming a Family Mentor here. Here’s what a few Afghan families have shared about the support provided through their mentors.
“The mentors are our family and friends. My sister lives in California and she asked us so many times to move there. I told her that we have people and a community who care for us like family and my children call our mentor grandma.”
“When the mentor told us that her one year term to help will be ending soon, I got so sad. I’m happy that she promised to continue visiting us.”
“They held our hands and are still helping us with everything you can think of, from housing and rental assistance to medical appointments, moving arrangements, everyday grocery shopping. We love them!”
While it’s been two years since many of these families’ lives were uprooted, the work of rebuilding is far from over. We are committed to continue coming alongside these families as they overcome hardships on their journey to self-sufficiency and new life in Oregon.