How to help Afghan refugees in Philadelphia right now (2022)

It’s been three months since the last US military plane left Kabul. After a traumatic evacuation and weeks living on military bases, hundreds of Afghan refugees are arriving in Philadelphia—they need our support now more than ever.

BY Katherine Rapin

Dec. 02, 2021

(Video) HIAS Pennsylvania helps with Afghan refugee resettlement

On Black Friday, ​​Said Hashimi took his nieces and nephews to Walmart to get winter clothes. His oldest nephew is 6 and had just started school that week, a major step in the traumatic two-month transition he and his family have made from their home in Kabul—via Qatar, Germany, Washington D.C. and Indiana—to their new home in Northeast Philadelphia.

“Do you know why I’m not going to school today?” the boy asked his uncle. “Because this is the American new year!”

“I said No, the new year is coming, but this is a different holiday,” Hashimi laughed. “He is learning.”

Hashimi, who moved from Afghanistan to Philly about two years ago, is an Afghan resettlement case manager for Nationalities Services Center (NSC). His brother’s family, who arrived here about a month ago, is among the 35 clients he’s currently supporting in setting up their new life in the States—in our city.

“All along the way there has been so much stress,” Hashimi says. “Being far from family and now the pressure on them not knowing the language well… anyone that I talk to I can feel the stress that they have gone through.”

After living with Hashimi for a couple weeks, the family recently moved into their own place. Hashimi walks his eldest nephew to school, as they are waiting on the School District of Philadelphia to process his paperwork so he can ride the bus. He takes his brother to get groceries since he doesn’t yet have a driver’s license. (He’s currently studying for his second permit test.) “He is finding his way,” says Hashimi.

As are the roughly 400 other Afghan refugees NSC has received from various military bases over the past few weeks. They plan to welcome about 100 more in the coming weeks. HIAS Pennsylvania has received about 60 Afghan individuals here in Philly—they expect to receive a total of 100, says Anneke Kat, community engagement specialist. More than 75 volunteers have been helping HIAS PA provide Afghan families with support in some capacity—grocery shopping and delivery, assisting with airport pick-ups, home setups, delivering essential items, and so on, Kat says.

These folks are now working on their first steps of resettlement: applying for work authorization, social security cards, drivers’ licenses, health insurance and food stamps; enrolling kids in school; finding housing; finding jobs.

(Video) How Philadelphia International Airport Transformed Into Welcome Center For Afghan Refugees

Hashimi says the biggest pain point is helping families find housing, especially in the growing Afghan community of Northeast Philadelphia where many prefer to resettle. Exacerbated by Philly’s affordable housing shortage and delays in acquiring the documentation many landlords require (like a social security card and pay stubs), the process can be frustratingly slow. NSC is currently putting up more than half the families they’ve received in a Center City hotel.

Finding jobs is a challenge, too—though with so many employers short-staffed, Hashimi says he’s helped folks find work at places like grocery stores, Walmart and delivery services like Amazon. But of course, many of his clients have specific skills and would prefer to work in their field. One, for example, is a chef who wants to start his own restaurant. “He is quite experienced,” says Hashimi, “But I asked him to wait—maybe first [he] works in a restaurant somewhere, learns the process and then slowly studies so he can have his own business.”

RELATED: An Afghan refugee who worked for the U.S. government relates his family’s harrowing experience fleeing the Taliban, making their way to the U.S.—and finding a welcoming home in Philadelphia

Hashimi’s brother, Rashad, is also trying to find a job in his field—he worked in refugee support programs at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. For Hashimi, though, finding any job is most important. “He needs to pay the rent after two months and he came with nothing,” he says.

It has been a long and traumatic journey for folks like Rashad and his family, many who left spouses, siblings, parents behind and brought—quite literally—only the clothes on their backs. “All along the way there has been so much stress,” Hashimi says. “Being far from family and now the pressure on them not knowing the language well… anyone that I talk to I can feel the stress that they have gone through.”

As they arrive here in Philly, Afghans need our support—now more than ever. They need housing (and all that makes a house a home); winter clothes; English classes; cultural orientation; driver’s licenses; jobs; healing and hope. Here are some meaningful ways you can help.

How to help Afghan refugees in Philly right now

Offer a spare room, apartment or house

If you’re a landlord—or know someone who is—and have an opening, reach out to Eduardo Esquivel ([emailprotected]) or Anneke Kat ([emailprotected]). If you have an empty home you’d like to offer for free or rent, reach out to Adi Altman ([emailprotected]).

If you have a spare room, sign up with Airbnb’s Open Homes program, which HIAS Pennsylvania has partnered with to provide temporary housing for their clients. (Hosts have full control over when and who they accept, and would liaise with a HIAS Pennsylvania PA staff member around specific housing requests before making the decision.)

(Video) Many Afghan refugees, including unaccompanied minors, remain in legal limbo in the U.S.


Reach out to your representatives and urge them to pass the Afghan Adjustment Act, which would allow those resettling to apply for a green card after a year. HIAS Pennsylvania also recommends urging congress to waive the sponsorship requirement which mandates that the humanitarian parole applicant find a person or institution to sign an affidavit swearing that they will provide sufficient support so that the applicant will not need to access any public benefits.

RELATED: A Philly school teacher and veteran who helped create literacy programs in Afghanistan reflects on the incredible people he encountered—and urges help for those who are arriving in our city

Donate money

Refugees receive $1,225 in “welcome money” from the federal government to support all their needs, including food, housing and clothing—as you can imagine, it doesn’t go very far. Help local resettling agencies fill in the gaps; donate to Nationalities Service Center’s Transforming Welcoming Fund and give to HIAS Pennsylvania here.


Think of the many, many things that would be unfamiliar to you if you’d just arrived from a very different place and culture. Take gift cards, for example—a common donation. An Afghan family may not know how to use it, how to get to the store, how to look for sales and get the most for their money, says Hashimi.

You can give or help folks shop for winter clothing; get furniture and kitchen supplies; show them how SEPTA works; deliver groceries; offer rides to appointments, and so much more. To work with HIAS Pennsylvania, create a volunteer profile and sign up for an info session. (Nationalities Service Center is not currently accepting volunteers as they’ve already received overwhelming support.)

RELATED: Philly-based tech startup Needslist crowdfunds humanitarian aid for the 25 million refugees worldwide. It is a game-changer in how we all can be part of the solution

Businesses, offer your services

If your business can donate goods, appliances, or services—cell phones, laptops and housecleaning are especially needed—reach out to Adi Altman ([emailprotected]) to coordinate.


Do you speak Dari, Pashto, Urdu or Farsi? Sign up with HIAS Pennsylvania to provide interpretation.

(Video) "Save The Children" helping Afghan refugees as they come to America

Donate furniture

Most organizations don’t have storage space to keep your old couch, but you can donate to the nonprofits they source from. HIAS Pennsylvania frequently works with Philadelphia Furniture Bank, which connects clients with a full home’s worth of furniture and new bedding, and Uhuru Furniture and Collectibles, which offers fast and free pick-up and delivery at low or no cost.

RELATED: South Philly artist-activist Michelle Angela Ortiz works to empower immigrants and galvanize the public and lawmakers into action through compassion

Provide pro bono legal services

HIAS Pennsylvania works with pro bono lawyers who donate their time and services—even if you don’t have specific experience working in immigration, they can train and support you. Sign up to help here.

Offer jobs

“I assume these people will be quite great—professionals—in the future,” says Hashimi. “But right now they need some support.” If you need to fill positions at your company, consider hosting a job fair for Afghan refugees. Coordinate with Jackie McCann ([emailprotected]) at NSC to make it happen.

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How to help Afghan refugees in Philadelphia right now (4)How to help Afghan refugees in Philadelphia right now (5)How to help Afghan refugees in Philadelphia right now (6)How to help Afghan refugees in Philadelphia right now (7)


What can I do to help Afghans? ›

You can help Afghanistan by making a donation.

Your donation will help us deliver food, water, basic medical supplies and shelter.

What is the Afghan Placement and Assistance Program? ›

The purpose of the APA Program is to provide certain Afghans granted parole with initial relocation services for 30 to 90 days after arrival as they begin to rebuild their lives in the United States. These services are provided through local refugee resettlement agencies and community partners.

How can I help local refugees? ›

How to help refugees in the United States: 10 ways to stand for...
  1. Donate online. ...
  2. Donate goods. ...
  3. Speak out. ...
  4. Spread the word. ...
  5. Volunteer. ...
  6. Fundraise. ...
  7. Share refugee stories. ...
  8. Welcome a refugee.
26 Jan 2017

How many Afghans live in Philadelphia? ›

About 700 Afghans live in Philadelphia, concentrated in the Northeast neighborhoods of Mayfair and Oxford Circle, with others in South Philadelphia.

Where can I donate to Haitian refugees? ›

The Haitian Bridge Alliance has been supporting Haitian immigrant communities in California for years, and is one of the primary organizations currently on the ground in Texas. Its work includes providing supplies, reuniting families, and welcoming the few asylum seekers who aren't being deported. Donate here.

Can I home a refugee? ›

Yes, as long as the guest is engaged with the asylum process or has right to remain. All of our guests have to be, so for most hosts there are no legal issues. There are some exceptions, e.g. hosts who work for the security services.

How do I adopt an Afghan child? ›

The process for adopting a child from Afghanistan generally includes the following steps:
  1. Choose an adoption service provider.
  2. Identify a child to adopt.
  3. Apply to be found eligible to adopt.
  4. Gain guardianship of the child in Afghanistan.
  5. Apply for the child to be found eligible for orphan status.
  6. Bring your child home.

What do refugees need when they arrive? ›

Need for healthcare: a lot of refugees are tired or exhausted and sometimes distressed when they arrive. They may also be ill due to the unhealthy conditions experienced during their journey. 2. Welfare needs in terms both of protection and a warm meal, a bed, access to a bathroom, new clothes, rest etc.

What resources are available for Afghan refugees? ›

ORR - Main Navigation
  • Afghan Assistance Resources.
  • Agriculture Partnership.
  • Cash & Medical Assistance.
  • Ethnic Community Self-Help.
  • Individual Development Accounts.
  • Matching Grant Program.

How do I get humanitarian parole? ›

To apply for humanitarian parole you will need to complete Form I-131, Application for Travel Document and Form 1-134 (Affidavit of Support), and include a written explanation that details your need.

How can I bring my family from Afghanistan to USA? ›

How can I/my family apply? If you lawfully live in the United States and want to apply for P3 status for family members in Afghanistan, you must visit your local refugee resettlement office and fill out an Affidavit of Relationship for each member of your family. To find your local resettlement office, click here.

Where can I volunteer to help Afghan refugees? ›

Resettlement Agencies
  • Church World Service (CWS)
  • Ethiopian Community Development Council (ECDC)
  • Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM)
  • Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS)
  • International Rescue Committee (IRC)
  • US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI)
  • Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services (LIRS)

How do I sponsor a refugee family? ›

There is currently no way to sponsor a refugee to come to the U.S., but there are other ways you can help. U.S. citizens have a certain amount of power to sponsor foreign-born people to obtain visas for permanent U.S. residence, otherwise known as green cards.

How do I sponsor an Afghan family? ›

How to form a Sponsor Circle, in 6 steps
  1. Form a group of five or more adults. ...
  2. Have each group member complete a mandatory background check. ...
  3. Have one group member complete an online course. ...
  4. Fill out a welcome plan. ...
  5. Fundraise. ...
  6. Fill out the application form.
17 Jan 2022

How many refugees did the US take from Afghanistan? ›

The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and the tumultuous U.S. pullout a year ago spawned a new refugee crisis. More than 120,000 Afghans were airlifted and scattered around the world. Some 76,000, the biggest influx of wartime evacuees since the fall of Saigon in Vietnam, have reached the United States.

Where are Afghan evacuees going? ›

Matthew Soerens, head of church mobilization at World Relief, one of the refugee resettlement agencies, said the relocation of many evacuees to Texas, California and Virginia can be attributed to large Afghan-American communities in those states, including in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Sacramento and northern Virginia ...

Where do Afghan Americans live? ›

The states of California, Virginia and New York historically had the largest number of Afghan Americans. Thousands may also be found in the states of Arizona, Texas, Georgia, Washington, Oklahoma, Idaho, Missouri, North Carolina, and Illinois. As of 2022, their total number is approximately 155,000.

Is the Red Cross helping Haiti? ›

Since the earthquake struck, the American Red Cross has funded more than 50 hospitals and clinics in Haiti – helping to rebuild the country's medical infrastructure.

What organizations are helping Haitian refugees? ›

Support our allies on the ground by joining their calls for action and donating to them:
  • Houston Haitians United. Houston Haitians United seeks volunteers and donations to support their work. ...
  • Haitian Bridge Alliance. ...
  • Black Alliance for Just Immigration. ...
  • Black LGBTQIA + Migrant Project. ...
  • UndocuBlack Network.
31 Aug 2022

Can you offer a room to a refugee? ›

As a “refugee host”, you decide how long you can offer a spare room or property. We screen all referrals to ensure a safe match, and our team are there to support you and your guest throughout the placement. Find out more about how it works. “It's like living with any other housemate.”

Can refugees get housing benefit? ›

If you've been living somewhere as part of getting Asylum Support, you'll have to move within 28 days of getting refugee status. If you're already living with friends or family, you don't need to move - but you won't be able to claim Housing Benefit, and it could affect other benefits you might get.

Can you volunteer to take in refugees? ›

Volunteer opportunities

The Refugee Council exists to support refugees in the UK. You can help ensure they are treated fairly and live with dignity by volunteering.

Can I foster Afghan children? ›

Also: Thousands of Afghans are looking for refuge in the U.S. But the immigration process isn't simple. Individuals interested in providing foster care must be trained and certified — a process that includes background checks, medical clearance, CPR and first-aid training, interviews and home inspections.

Can I adopt a refugee child from Afghanistan? ›

Can I adopt a refugee child? Unaccompanied refugee minors are not legally eligible for adoption. However, many refugee foster parents develop deep connections with refugee children they've cared for in their homes, considering them part of the family.

How can I help Afghan kids? ›

If you'd like to help, there are several organizations doing work in Afghanistan.
  1. UNICEF.
  2. International Committee of the Red Cross.
  3. World Food Programme.
  4. Doctors Without Borders.
  5. Norwegian Refugee Council.
31 Jan 2022

What are the five basic needs of refugees? ›

The UNHCR Results Framework defines basic needs in terms of access to basic services and assistance in health, nutrition, WASH, food, shelter, energy, education, as well as domestic items and specialised services for people with specific needs.

Who takes in the most refugees? ›

Türkiye hosts the largest number of refugees, with 3.8 million people. Colombia is second with more than 1.8 million, including Venezuelans displaced abroad.
Welcome to UNHCR's Refugee Population Statistics Database.
Türkiye3.8 million
Pakistan1.5 million
Germany1.3 million
2 more rows
16 Jun 2022

Do refugees have to pay taxes? ›

Over the first 20 years in the U.S., the average adult refugee pays taxes that exceed relocation costs and social benefits. Are refugees a burden on the taxpayer? New evidence suggests that, with a long enough perspective, the answer is no.

What is the difference between SIV and p2? ›

The P-2 program is designed for Afghan nationals who are not eligible for a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) and unlike SIV, there is no minimum length of employment to be eligible. What else do I need to know about eligibility?

What benefits do humanitarian parolees get? ›

You may be eligible for federal “mainstream” (non-ORR funded) benefits, such as cash assistance through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), health insurance through Medicaid, and food assistance through Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Who is eligible for evacuation from Afghanistan? ›

Special Immigrant Visa (SIV): The SIV program is available to Afghan nationals who were employed by, or on behalf of the U.S. government. SIV-eligible individuals and their direct family members may apply directly to the U.S. for resettlement.

How long does it take for humanitarian parole to be approved? ›

USCIS Humanitarian Affairs Branch (HAB) normally adjudicates parole requests within 90 days of receipt. If we need to ask you for additional information, it will take us longer to process your request.

How long does a humanitarian application take? ›

Bear in mind that an H&C application is typically a slow process. Usually, the processing takes between 24 and 36 months. However, the waiting time varies from case to case, and your case could take even longer.

Can humanitarian parole be denied? ›

Review of these applications is quite stringent: approximately ¾ of all humanitarian parole applications are denied. It is prescribed on a case-by-case basis and may not normally be used to circumvent normal visa-issuing procedures or applications for refugee status.

Who to contact to get Afghans out of Afghanistan? ›

Asylum/Humanitarian Assistance: Afghans with safety concerns may contact the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) protection office, which can be reached via their Protection Hotline numbers or email address: 0790691746 and 0704996168 (available on all working days), and

Is the US Embassy in Afghanistan closing? ›

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul suspended operations on August 31, 2021.

Who is eligible for SIV? ›

SIVs are available to individuals who have worked as translators, interpreters, or other professionals employed by or on behalf of the United States government in Afghanistan or Iraq. Those who are eligible for these visas and their dependents can apply through one of two SIV programs.

How can I help new immigrants? ›

Ten Things You Can Do to Support Immigrants and Refugees
  1. 1) Get informed. ...
  2. 2) Speak up and speak out. ...
  3. 3) Write letters to the editor to your local newspaper. ...
  4. 4) Support organizations that provide direct services to immigrants and refugees. ...
  5. 5) Call your representatives. ...
  6. 6) Get immigrants out of detention.
26 Nov 2019

Can you hire Afghan refugees? ›

Afghan SIV holders, refugees, and parolees are all legally authorized to work in the U.S. Since Afghans arriving in the U.S. have different immigration statuses, they may present various documents to complete new hire paperwork.

How much does it cost to sponsor a refugee in USA? ›

Monthly Sponsorship cost: Singles: $110 (1.5 juta); Families: $190 (2.7 juta). NHRM accepts partial sponsorships (such as 50%) but requests a minimum commitment of 1 year if possible.

Can a US citizen sponsor a non family member? ›

Can a U.S. citizen sponsor a non-family member for immigration? Unfortunately, no, you can't petition for a foreign national's visa or green card if they aren't a family member.

How do I sponsor a migrant? ›

on a relative petition must have a financial sponsor.

If you choose to sponsor your relative's immigration by filing a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, you must agree to be the financial sponsor and file an affidavit of support when the time comes for actual immigration.

How much does it cost to sponsor a refugee family? ›

$8,000 - The average minimum cost to resettle a family of four through RefugeeOne is $8,000. Refugees are resourceful people who are highly motivated to begin new lives and pursue their hopes and dreams.

How do refugees get to the US? ›

The application process involves filling out a refugee application form, providing certain documents, attending interviews, and meeting various criteria. (As a side note, humanitarian parole is another means of asking for temporary permission to enter the United States for urgent reasons, such as to apply for asylum.)

What is Afghan Placement and Assistance Program? ›

The purpose of the APA Program is to provide certain Afghans granted parole with initial relocation services for 30 to 90 days after arrival as they begin to rebuild their lives in the United States. These services are provided through local refugee resettlement agencies and community partners.

Can you volunteer for Afghanistan? ›

If you would like to make a real difference in a developing country, you really should think about going to help in Afghanistan. Some organisations hire international volunteers, both skilled and un-skilled to help all year round.

What are the UK doing to help Afghanistan? ›

The UK Government has announced two schemes to support Afghan nationals: the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) and the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS). UNHCR is not involved in the ARAP, and it is only involved with the second cohort of the ACRS.

How can we help Afghanistan UK? ›

You can still help Afghan refugees and people in Afghanistan by making a donation to our Afghanistan Crisis Appeal. Donations will help us continue to provide vital aid for Afghanistan from the UK.

What does Afghan aid do? ›

We build basic services, improve livelihoods, strengthen the rights of women and children, help communities protect against natural disasters and climate change, and respond to humanitarian emergencies.

How can I help a family in Afghanistan? ›

CARE is a nongovernmental organization that's providing food, water, shelter and protection to displaced families. You can donate to its Afghanistan Humanitarian Fund, which includes cross-border support for refugees. The International Rescue Committee is working in Afghanistan to deliver aid to those in need.

Where can I volunteer to help Afghan refugees? ›

Resettlement Agencies
  • Church World Service (CWS)
  • Ethiopian Community Development Council (ECDC)
  • Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM)
  • Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS)
  • International Rescue Committee (IRC)
  • US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI)
  • Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services (LIRS)

Who is giving aid to Afghanistan? ›

The United States is the single largest humanitarian donor in Afghanistan, providing more than $774 million in humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan and for Afghans in the region since mid-August, including more than $573 million from USAID.

How much foreign aid is going to Afghanistan? ›

SIGAR noted in its January 2022 report that, The UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that donors contributed $1.67 billion for Afghanistan humanitarian assistance programs in 2021. The United States contributed the largest amount, over $425 million.

Is the Red Cross allowed in Afghanistan? ›

The Red Cross Movement maintains one of the most extensive humanitarian access capacities in Afghanistan.

How much does Afghanistan get in aid? ›

It is highly dependent on aid, with grants financing around 75% of public spending in 2019, according to the World Bank's expenditure report. Although aid has fallen from around 100% of GDP in 2009 to 43% in 2020, it remains at a high level. Afghanistan is also a cash-reliant society.

Which charities are operating in Afghanistan? ›

As the situation deteriorates and the Afghanistan crisis unfolds further, these are the charities and fundraisers that need your help.
  • Afghanaid. ...
  • The Halo Trust. ...
  • IRC. ...
  • The British Red Cross. ...
  • Turquoise Mountain Trust. ...
  • Women for Women. ...
  • Vital Voices. ...
  • Unicef.

Is Unicef still in Afghanistan? ›

UNICEF has been on the ground in Afghanistan for over 70 years with 13 offices nationwide and a range of partners that support us in delivering assistance to the most vulnerable, especially children.

Where can I donate clothes for Afghan refugees in London? ›

Donating money

Afghanistan and Central Asian Association. The London Community Foundation. British Red Cross. The UN Refugee Agency.

Is Doctors Without Borders in Afghanistan? ›

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has expanded its medical programs in Afghanistan to meet the growing needs.

Is Afghan aid an NGO? ›

Afghanaid is an international humanitarian and development NGO that has worked alongside Afghan communities — currently including over one million adults and children — for over three decades.

Is unhcr in Afghanistan? ›

UNHCR's work in Afghanistan focuses on protecting the most vulnerable and assisting newly displaced Afghans with life-saving shelter, food, water and core relief items, both within Afghanistan and neighbouring countries.


1. Philadelphia International Airport Prepares For Arrival Of Afghan Refugees
(CBS Philly)
2. Philadelphia Airport To Receive Afghan Refugees
(CBS Philly)
3. Refugees From Afghanistan Arrive at Philadelphia International Airport | NBC10
(NBC10 Philadelphia)
4. How Chicagoans can help Afghan refugees
(ABC 7 Chicago)
5. One Afghan refugee on her 'desperate hope' for her homeland, life in the U.S.
(PBS NewsHour)
6. Afghan Family Who Escaped Taliban Takeover Arrives in Philadelphia
(NBC10 Philadelphia)

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