Hoosiers helping Afghans on the way to U.S. and those staying behind


INDIANAPOLIS — Even as America exiting Afghanistan and its longest war, Hoosiers are helping Afghans staying behind in their home country and those coming to the United States to make a new home.

Exodus Refugee Immigrations works in Indianapolis to help resettle refugees coming from other countries.

Executive Director Cole Varga said they’ve already helped a few Afghan families in August, but they expect that number to go up and they’re preparing to help them all.

“We have an apartment we set up for them with donated items, furnished, food for a couple weeks,” Varga said. “We’re getting the kids enrolled in schools, the parents enrolled in adult English classes here at our office.”

Varga said they help find jobs for the parents, provide mental health services, connect them with doctors, and do whatever they can do to help soften the shock and trauma of the last month or so in Afghanistan.

“The loss of their country to the Taliban, the loss of their homes, perhaps family members who got left behind,” Varga said.

He said they’re in need of anything people can donate or any donations that can be made.

“Your dinner table, chairs, forks, pots, pans,” Varga said. “We need all of those items because our new families don’t have them, they had to leave them behind in Afghanistan and we want to make sure they have a safe and welcoming home.”

Varga said any donations will go toward their programs to help refugees with legal services, mental health, and more.

On top of that, Exodus Immigration has an Amazon Wish List and accepts volunteers who can help. Varga said they would love to have people who could teach English classes or mentor families.

Two Exodus Refugee Immigration staff members are also on a two-week mission right now to help refugees coming into the country. Varga said these two staff members are working 12–14-hour days at a military base to help process refugees coming into the U.S.

“They’ve been busy,” Varga said. “Plane loads of 200 people hopping off the plane and staying on these bases and we’ve got to process all of them.”

Varga said the process of bringing refugees from Afghanistan into the country has been expedited, but it is no less thorough, and it is very important the U.S. help these allies.

“We’ve got to get these people that worked so hard alongside U.S. forces for 20 years, we’ve got to make sure we honor our commitments to them and keep them and their families safe,” Varga said.

As some Afghans leave to start new lives elsewhere, there are still many more Afghans still in their home country who need help.

This is the mission of Bibi Bahrami and her non-profit, Afghan Women’s and Kids’ Education & Necessities or AWAKEN.

For 20 years, AWAKEN has worked in Afghanistan to teach women vocational classes, built a school, opened a healthcare clinic, and more. But now the future of AWAKEN is uncertain with the Taliban in control.

“I’m worried for their safety and their future,” Bahrami said.

Bahrami said all of the programs are currently paused except for the clinic, out of fear of the Taliban.

“We told our doctors and staff to continue the services and try to be as secure to protect yourself, your privacy, and others’ security,” she said.

Bahrami said she still has a lot of family in Afghanistan. One of her nephews was even hurt in the bombing outside the Afghan airport, another nephew tried to get his family out of the country but wasn’t successful. She’s hoping she’ll eventually be able to return to her home country.

“That will be my dream,” Bahrami said. “That I can go to a secure country and visit my family and visit my country, my birth country.”

As for how Hoosiers can help AWAKEN, Bahrami has a simple ask.

“I will appreciate everyone’s prayers and their financial support,” she said.

People can donate to AWAKEN on its website.

Bahrami said they are also partnering with a local First Presbyterian Church to collect supplies to send to U.S. military bases accepting refugees.

If you would like to donate household items or money, volunteer your time, or even buy something off the Exodus Refugee Amazon wish list, you can find that information on the Exodus Refugee Immigration website.

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