Students aid Afghan refugees

Naderpoor gathers diapers, clothes, and shoes for different drives that aim to help Afghan refugees by giving them the different things they need to live a great life here in Northern Virginia.

Photo courtesy of Mariam Mustafa

Naderpoor gathers diapers, clothes, and shoes for different drives that aim to help Afghan refugees by giving them the different things they need to live a great life here in Northern Virginia.

Students are helping incoming refugees in the Northern Virginia area by organizing charity events and if they can to aid them.

The Spartans for Refugees club has recently been revived and started meeting again this year to help refugees from around the world. Due to the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan, the club has shifted their focus to getting those refugees the resources that they need.

“[Helping refugees is] such a near and dear thing to my heart being a foreigner and kind of new to the country and not feeling welcome,” said senior Medina Naderpoor. “Aid and giving is so important.”

Naderpoor is the officer for Spartans for Refugees and was asked to revive the club by her leadership teacher. Since the revival of the club, the members have organized a donation drive to raise materials for Afghan refugees. The drive list consists of items such as masks, slightly worn or new shoes, new children’s clothes, and other items that can benefit and aid the incoming refugees to make their lives just a little bit better.

The club is now planning more methods of garnering attention from the student body through additional donation drives and events.

Naderpoor and her family are from Afghanistan and their family connections contribute to her motivation of helping other refugees. Her parents moved here illegally, as that was really the only option at the time, during the first Taliban and US conflict around 20 years ago and unfortunately had to leave some family behind.

“[My father] moved when the terrorist groups were trying to take over and it’s just like what goes on all the time and it’s sad that it’s a norm but it is,” said Naderpoor.

Adjusting to life in the United States was hard for her family members, especially her grandparents who had lived there for a long time. They felt as if their culture was stripped away and tried their best to keep it intact.

“A couple days before the Taliban came to Afghanistan, I had two people die in my family in Afghanistan,” said Naderpoor. “The trauma from that was so painful already but then a couple of days later hearing what was going on, I was in disbelief, but I was also like, this is normal.”

Naderpoor strives to raise true awareness for the issue and have it not be treated as a trend since aid is still a necessary priority. Her family has lost so much and has helped out by donating used clothes and putting up fliers to push people in the community to help incoming refugees.

There is also a Northern Virginia organization called RAFT (Resettling Afghan Families Together) that has so far arranged 30 homes for refugee families, surpassing its goal of 10 homes. RAFT has also aided refugees in acquiring jobs and gaining licenses in order to ease their lives as they settle down.

“Meeting the families who were receiving help from NoVA RAFT was surreal as I was sometimes visiting large families who had been left to sleep on the floor for days before RAFT helped them,” said senior Rachel Swann. “Knowing what they had been through to make it to Northern Virginia and knowing what they still faced ahead of them only encouraged me to stay involved and continue to spend time helping them.”

The organization has roughly 80 volunteers that participate in helping refugees regularly, along with 1,000 members in their Facebook group. This Facebook group has links to websites where people can easily contribute donations with the click of a button.

Swann’s motivation for joining this organization was seeing all the fleeing refugees struggling here in the United States and she wanted to make a tangible impact for the people in her community.

“I feel this experience has provided me with a great amount of perspective on the differences in the way we here in NoVA live our lives versus how families typically live their lives in Afghanistan. I have only begun to learn about the differences in our cultures but I can’t wait to continue learning. This new perspective has provided me with new empathy that should allow me to better help resettling refugees in the future,” expressed Swann.

Use this QR code to donate items through an Amazon wishlist for the Afghan Refugee Donation Drive held by Spartans for Refugees. Items such as masks, shoes, hand sanitizer, socks and more can also be dropped off at room 2074.