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How to help Afghan refugees: Where you can volunteer, donate, and more in Philadelphia

Philadelphia groups helping people fleeing Afghanistan.

Refugees at Hasa-e-Awal Park in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Refugees at Hasa-e-Awal Park in Kabul, Afghanistan.Read moreMarcus Yam / MCT

As Taliban forces continue to take control of Afghanistan, tens of thousands of people are attempting to flee the country and seek refuge in the United States and elsewhere. Many fear what the return of Taliban rule will mean for the country’s citizens in general, and for women and girls in particular.

According to an announcement from the Pentagon this week, the U.S. government has plans to settle some 22,000 refugees coming to the country and house them temporarily in military bases, according to the Washington Post. And, according to the Department of State, Philadelphia is one of a number of U.S. cities set to take on Afghan Special Immigrant Visa holders.

So, what can you do to help? Many local, national, and international groups are looking for help for those seeking asylum. You can donate money or supplies, or volunteer your time.

Here are some ways that you may be able to help:


The Philadelphia-based Nationalities Service Center (NSC) says “as a refugee resettlement agency, we stand ready to provide sanctuary to the men, women, and children fleeing the Taliban regime.” Here are things you can help them do:

  1. Volunteer to meet refugees at the airport and help them get to their new homes.

  2. Help set up housing for new refugees, by helping clean a home or set it up as a safe and comfortable living space. If you’re a landlord and can help arrange suitable housing, contact NSC’s Eduardo Esquivel at

  3. Make or donate meals, especially Afghan food, so refugees have familiar and comforting food when they arrive.

HIAS Pennsylvania, which is also based in Philly, also suggests some options for folks who want to volunteer:

  1. Help resettle refugees with temporary housing via HIAS Pennsylvania’s partnership with Airbnb’s Open Homes initiative, through which you can “use your extra space to provide a welcoming stay for refugees.” More information is available on the HIAS Pennsylvania website.

  2. Realtors and landlords who can provide affordable housing to refugees for six months to a year should contact community engagement specialist Anneke Kat at

If you speak Dari or Pashto and want to help interpret, you can sign with the Philadelphia Medical Reserve Corps (MRC). That group consists of more than 2,500 volunteers to help the city “during public health emergencies and large-scale events.” You can volunteer with the MRC by visiting the State Emergency Registry of Volunteers in Pennsylvania (SERVPA) website.

The nationally focused Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) is also looking for volunteers to help with airport pickups, housing, and providing meals for refugees. Currently, that group is focused on the Washington metro area, and parts of Texas and Washington state, but you can sign up for its general standby list here.


Donating money

Local groups
  1. You can donate to the NSC’s Transforming Welcoming fund, which helps make sure that “all incoming refugees have a good start at a new life.”

  2. HIAS Pennsylvania is also accepting donations to help resettle “Afghan and Haitian individuals seeking safety and assist those applying for legal status.”

Both organizations use the money to buy furniture, bedding, dishware, and toys for families who have left everything behind.

National and international groups

There are many organizations to which you can donate money to help. For example, the Afghan American Foundation has a list of 20 organizations that it considers “established, vetted, and reputable” that you can support.

Whatever organization you choose, you can vet them first on websites such as Charity Navigator, which evaluates nonprofits and recommends credible charitable organizations.

  1. LIRS’ Neighbors in Need: Afghan Allies fund, which focuses on helping provide food, housing, clothing, and other basic needs.

  2. Women for Afghan Women, which describes itself as the “largest women’s organization in Afghanistan,” is accepting donations to help provide “safe shelter, resources, and aid to the thousands of women, children, families, and staff.”

  3. The International Rescue Committee (IRC), which has a donation page to help provide “displaced families with shelter, clean water, sanitation, and other basic necessities.”

  4. No One Left Behind works to help interpreters who “served right alongside U.S. military and government personnel,” and is accepting donations.

  5. The Bamyan Foundation is helping reestablish the now-closed Marefat School, the only co-ed school in Afghanistan, and to resettle girls and teachers who can get out of the country.

  6. The Afghan Girls Financial Assistance Fund, helps Afghan girls get scholarships to U.S. universities.

Donating goods and services

If you’d prefer to donate something besides money, both the NSC and HIAS Pennsylvania have a few suggestions:

  1. Create a welcome kit for new refugees. You can find a complete list of needed items, including new and used toys, household goods, and new toiletries, here. The NSC also has an Amazon Wishlist for items to help stock a refugee’s home.

  2. If you are a business and can donate goods, appliances, and services (such as house cleaning). Contact NSC’s Adi Altman at or HIAS Pennsylvania’s Kat at

  3. HIAS Pennsylvania is accepting certain household goods, including bedding and kitchenware. You can also donate through their Target registry, or donate gift cards for groceries.

If you want to help someone evacuate

If you need assistance for a friend, colleague, or family member in Afghanistan, there are different processes for American citizens, as well as for people who are eligible for special programs. Here are some resources for more information about 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 U.S. House of Representatives website , and the same information is available for senators on

If you are helping high-profile women or women’s rights activists, the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants suggests contacting the State Department’s Office of Global Women’s Issues at That office can help evacuate women and girls specifically.

Staff columnist Trudy Rubin contributed to this article.

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