How We Can Help

Virginia, Maryland Say They'll Be A Safe Harbor For Afghan Refugees : NPR
Photo by NPR

The drama unfolding in Afghanistan is a humanitarian crisis and it’s not going to get better. There is little doubt that the execution of the withdrawal after 20 years of war and corruption has been a disaster. Politicians talk about getting our “friends” out. But, even if that’s possible, our “friends” apparently don’t include the tens of thousands of people who aligned themselves with the US in unofficial ways. The families of my refugee friends in Europe have relatives in Kabul who have almost no chance of getting help from the US, even those who worked for US contractors or government agencies. Like so many others, they are in grave danger.

We all want to help and there are many ways to do that. But please don’t waste your money by donating to large nonprofit organizations. You will not be helping the Afghan people. You will be supporting large salaries and nice offices. And some of those organizations do more harm than good.. Smaller local organizations do better to help people directly, but such organizations are probably not able to help on the ground in Afghanistan right now.

If you want to help, there are people everywhere, including Afghans, who are suffering and who would benefit greatly from your support. Help them directly or find a small local organization that can. For example, you can take food or socks to a local homeless encampment. Give a few dollars to someone who is begging (and if you resist this because “they might buy drugs,” consider — as you sip your glass of wine — how you might need some relief from reality if you were living on the streets). Volunteer to tutor an immigrant child or teach English. Find individuals who, with a little help, pay it forward by helping their neighbors and communities.

If you want to feed a family in Mexico (where I am currently living), there are many here on the verge of disaster, partly because of the pandemic. Send me a note if you want me to use your funds to get them food.

If these options don’t work for you, small local nonprofits will use your funds very effectively and some will help you identify people with specific needs. If you are in the Bay Area, here are lists of mostly local, small organizations that work directly with immigrants and Americans in need.

Every disaster reminds the fortunate among us of our good luck, but we don’t have to wait for “trending” disasters. We can help every day, and we should.


  1. I guess you wd not approve of my donation this past week to the International Rescue Committee. The situation in Afghanistan is shameful, intel predicted a weak govt and military response, and mobilization to get “key assets” and partners out of the country shd have accelerated MONTHS ago. I posted to that effect on FB in early June. We also need to split our support focus to Haiti.

  2. It’s good to hear from you, Kim 🙂 I agree that we should be helping others who are less fortunate every day in whatever way we can. Opportunities abound. We need only to open our eyes, minds, and hearts.

    1. Yes, I think one of the things that keeps us from being a more just world is how some of “us” think everyone else is “them.” Even well-intentioned and generous people need to think of other humans as part of their tribe.

  3. As you know, querida Kim, I’ve been reading a lot of Paul Theroux and his travels in (among other places) war-torn countries. He, too, is very much against so-called “aid” organizations that are mainly in the business of staying in business. Thank you for suggesting better alternatives to your readers.

  4. Thanks Kim for this. I made a donation to Refugee Services of TX but if I were in the Bay Area right now, I’d be volunteering with Jewish Family Services of the East Bay. Hopefully some of your friends there will consider.

    VOLUNTEER: Please fill out our Community Sponsorship Groups form. These groups of 4 to 6 volunteers will assist our case managers with tasks such as airport pickups, signing up refugees for their social services benefits, helping register children for school, providing ESL language support, and other related needs.

    Our country has not undertaken a refugee evacuation of this size since the Vietnam War. It is therefore time for JFCS East Bay to put our 144-year history of refugee resettlement into hyperdrive.

  5. The City of Fremont’s Human Services Department is raising money to provide direct assistance to Afghan Refugees who are arriving to the Tri-City area (Fremont, Newark, and Union City) from Afghanistan.

    Fremont is home to one of the largest Afghan communities in the Country and many residents and businesses have asked how they can help. The Afghan Refugee Help fund will be managed by the City’s Human Services Department, which will work with local Afghan partner organizations to determine the priorities and needs or those new arrivals to our country. Funds will be used for housing, food, clothing, and other items or services to assist refugees expected to arrive in our area.

    Fremont’s community has a strong track record of coming together in times of need, and we appreciate the support—no donation is too small.

    Visit the City of Fremont’s website to make a donation now.

    To make a donation by check, make check out to City of Fremont, with AR Help noted in the memo, and mail to City of Fremont Human Services Department, P.O. Box 5006, Fremont, CA 94537-5006.

    1. Great suggestion, thank you! Hopefully, there will be lots of refugees placed in that neighborhood to help people get adjusted to their new country with the sounds of Dari and the smells of Afghan cooking!

  6. I sent some money to Nowzad, the Afghani animal charity started by a former Royal Marine to help get animals in Afghanistan to the servicemembers who have looked after them. They have 81 dogs, 77 cats, and five female veterinarian that they are trying to get out before the Taliban get to them. Definitely not a big charity … and I hope that all are safe.

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