Success for the Student-Led Afghan Refugee Donation Drive

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By Amanda Ojeda

Earlier this year, the Biden Administration delayed the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan to September 11th. Mentions of the withdrawal date all the way back to the Obama Administration, but it was only finalized this September. Many fears arose that the Taliban would regain control, and these fears became reality on the days leading up to August 15th, when Taliban fighters took control of the Afghan presidential palace in Kabul. 

Since then, many Afghan citizens have fled the country, some of which have or will be resettled in the US. Gov. Kathy Hochul announced that Buffalo will be welcoming 335 refugees, which is about 1/3 of those entering the state. The community has some amazing organizations that provide refugee services, five of which started Buffalo United for Afghan Evacuees. These five organizations are Catholic Charities, Jericho Road, International Institute of Buffalo, Journey’s End, and Jewish Family Services. 

East students, Claudia Lewis, Grace Hwang, Luke Lostumbo, and Michael Ge led the donation drive for household items that will be used in welcome kits for the incoming evacuees, which ended on Friday, December 3rd. These items included bedding sets, kitchen utensils and appliances, paper towels, toiletries, school supplies, and other household items that will ease their transition. All the donations will be distributed to evacuees through Jewish Family Services.

At the moment, it will be very difficult for evacuees to access housing assistance, supplemental food aid, government-run medical programs, and there will be great delays when it comes to work authorizations. They will receive a $1,125 per capita (per person) grant, but that will not be sufficient for one year of living expenses. Therefore, in September, Buffalo United for Afghan Evacuees set a goal for the community to raise $750,000 for the evacuees in order to help with housing and other basic needs. 

The donation drive was very successful all thanks to the wonderful East community and great leadership from the students who organized the donations, alongside the teachers and staff who helped spread awareness of the drive. Thanks to this student-led drive, many families and refugees will be able to transition to life in Buffalo, and start their road to self-sufficiency. If you wish to make a donation, visit wnyrac.org