While a significant number of the over 100,000 Afghan refugees who were successfully airlifted out of their country in the last month have been relocated in Northern Virginia, an extraordinary relief effort is well underway to provide them with a full array of human services they need to secure a resettlement here.
Understandably, the City of Falls Church and its Human Services division are withholding any information that could narrow the location of the newly arrived refugees.
The level of volunteer relief efforts throughout the wider area has been massive.
Contributing significantly to that effort has been Esmat Niazy, the longtime family owner of the City’s highly rated Panjshir Restaurant, located in the shopping center at 114 E. Fairfax.
Niazy said he’s had many people call or come to his restaurant seeking ways to help the new arrivals here.
The Afghans arriving locally supported the U.S.’s efforts in their home country, and were thus at high risk under the Taliban regime that has taken control of Afghanistan in the wake of the completed American military withdrawal following 20 years of conflict there.
His parents and entire family came to this area from Kabul in 1979 and came to Falls Church in 1985.
His family opened its restaurant here, which was just announced as a runner-up in the International Restaurant category of the Best of Falls Church for 2021.
He said he’s sending leads and supporters to the Mustafa Center, a mosque and community services center on Braddock Road in nearby Annandale.
In Virginia, Afghan allies of the U.S. and their families are being sent to Fort Lee outside Richmond and the Dulles Expo Center in Loudoun County before being moved to Fort Bliss in Texas and Fort McCoy in Wisconsin.
While citizens wishing to help have been urged not to show up at the Dulles Expo Center, scores of Falls Church residents eager to lend a hand have been directed primarily to the International Rescue Committee with 20 offices across the U.S., including within the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington, Charlottesville, Richmond and in Silver Spring, Maryland. At each of five sites in this region — in Arlington, Alexandria, Mansassas, Annandale and Fredericksburg — a “comprehensive array of resettlement services is offered so that newcomers can become self-sufficient as soon as possible,” according to its website.
Then there is the Ethiopian Community Development Council and the Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area, which reports it is “expecting to resettle potentially 800 individuals within a two month period” since July 31.
Over 4,500 volunteers have been recruited and $593,000 in donated gifts to families have been received, its website says.
As of Aug. 23, 72 families totalling 300 people have been resettled, and about 80 persons per week are being welcomed. Its resettlement sites, it states, are around Fairfax, Dale City and Hyattsville, Maryland.
The organization encourages people who want to help to donate money, provide transportation and help assembling Welcome Home Gift Boxes, participate in advocacy and host fundraisers.
The Ethiopian council said its programs “assist newcomers by giving them hope for their future, and helping them become self-sufficient, productive members of their communities.”
The International Rescue Committee says that cash donations “are the most flexible way for people to help address urgent needs,” but that items are welcome like kitchenware, cleaning products, laptops and school supplies, along with gift cards and “new or gently used items” of furniture, household goods and items for kids such as strollers or car seats.
F.C. resident Hannah Jordon of Welcoming Falls Church reported that she and her husband have been helping an Afghan refugee family with seven kids, ages 9 – 18, in their relocation to a site in Alexandria.
Terri Ruhter has spearheaded an effort among residents of the Railroad Cottages in Falls Church to put together gift boxes for deployment by the Lutheran Social Services.
Holding a press briefing just hours before the final U.S. flight took off out of Afghanistan, U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine said, “I am so heartened by the reaction we have gotten from Virginians. When the subject comes up,” he said, “the only thing I hear is ‘What can we do to help?’”
Kaine said that Biden was right to end the war after 20 years. “The father of a Marine, at some point he felt we had to say the next chapter is on them, the Afghans. A 20 year massive commitment could have been put to good use elsewhere.”
The priority has been, Kaine said, “to continue to get our people out that want to leave, and for our Afghani friends, to get them into productive lives here.”