SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — Over a dozen volunteers from across San Diego County pitched in to help furnish a Lemon Grove apartment for an Afghan refugee family of three, arriving to San Diego from Sacramento via Washington D.C. with immediate family members left behind.
Jill Galante is the organizer of Helping El Cajon Refugees and says the need for little items donated from pillows to wash cloths is dire.
“In the past, I have visited families of eight that shared one towel for six months, and that person was a U.S. translator, so basically whatever they lost, they gained by our hand,” Galante said.
The group of volunteers moved up and down the stairs and set up this apartment like the work of an assembly line for an Afghan family who only has the clothes on their backs.
“They don’t have any money to spare. They do not have bed money, they do not have toothpaste money,” Galante said.
Khalid Talabani leads the Alliance For African Assistance, which is a resettlement agency helping refugees.
“They have been suffering a lot I would say for the last couple of years, and they suffer even more when they come to the United States,” Talabani said.
Talabani would know since he came to the U.S. from Iraq in 2016, and says it was a struggle to get settled. He will help the families find work.
“They don’t have any credit history, and they don’t have any work history, and we help support them financially. We help pay for the rent. It takes weeks for them to receive a social security card,” Talabani said.
He says what is needed most is housing for refugee families, and that's been the biggest challenge to provide in San Diego due to the pandemic and lack of affordable housing.
“I was struggling trying to find an apartment for him,” Talabani said.
Rolling out the carpet, once the refugee family arrived, they did not want to be identified for fear of Taliban retaliation on their family left behind.
One of the Afghan refugees said “I am happy to be here but still for my family, it is a very hard time right now. It is very dangerous there. I fear that somehow the Taliban may know their identity and they would know they are related to me.”
This father of a 1-year-old girl has been in the U.S. since late July and hopes to become an accountant just like he was in Afghanistan. Now, he has to take CPA classes after getting a regular job.
If you would like to learn more information or help donate to the Helping El Cajon Refugees Facebook Group.
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