San Juan Unified collecting donations for Afghan community

Local News

CARMICHAEL, Calif. (KTXL) — Local community leaders and resettlement agencies met Wednesday to discuss how the resettlement of Afghan refugees is going. 

“I had $2,200 in my pocket when I first came. But in like 18 days, I only had $100,” Shafi Ullah Hotak said. 

Hotak, with the Lao Family Community Development, is familiar with the resettlement process. He came to the U.S. in 2014 after helping the U.S. military. 

“The 90 days is very hard to be self-sufficient,” Hotak said. 

That is how many days resettlement agencies have to help families get adjusted to their new lives, start the process of learning English, finding a job, school and health care. Over the past few months, the five resettlement agencies in Sacramento, including the World Relief Sacramento, have helped 1,700 refugees. 

They expect that number to go up. 

“The United States overall anticipates welcoming in 75,000 of those evacuated under humanitarian parole. We anticipate of the 75,000, 5,000 will be coming to the Sacramento area,” Jessie Tientcheu said. 

Tientcheu, with Opening Doors, said their agency and others usually get a two-week notice before refugees arrive. Now, they said they are notified 24 to 48 hours before.

But a challenge looms with the current housing situation. That is why only those with existing contacts are being allowed to resettle. 

Hotak now works for an agency like the one that helped him and assists other families in making the transition. He said everyone can play a part. 

“When you see them, smile to them. That is a big gift. They need a smile,” Hotak said. 

The San Juan Unified School District is collecting donations for Afghan community members affected by the crisis in Afghanistan.

Of the district’s 40,000 students, about 1,700 are refugees who had to flee the war-torn nation. 

“Well, these refugees are coming to the United States have so many needs, and the resettlement agencies work with them, but many of them come with a small suitcase of clothes,” explained SJUSD Superintendent Kent Kern. “They don’t have a lot of the items they need, so it’s an opportunity for us to support the students and families in our community.”

As the district supports Afghan students and families, they are actively working to safely bring home about 40 students and another 70 relatives who traveled in Afghanistan this summer but have not been able to get out.

“We’re in contact with them almost daily,” Kern said. “We have some former Afghan members that work in our district, and they’re directly speaking with those folks. And so we’re working with their local elected officials to bring these students back home safely.”

In the meantime, district leaders hope their efforts through this donation drive will make thousands of refugees feel a little bit more at home.

“Anything that we can do to help during this challenging time, we are trying our best to do,” said Amy Rovai Gregory, director of Family Engagement and Partnership Development. “We are family here. We want to make sure they feel welcome, that they are supported, that we care for them.”

Donations can be dropped off at the district office at 3738 Walnut Ave. in Carmichael. They are accepted Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Donations may also be made online.

The district is looking for items like clothing, shoes, socks and undergarments, hygiene products, bed sheets and blankets, towels and new or gently-used strollers, wheelchairs, walkers, crutches or canes.

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