In response to the Afghan refugee crisis, I traveled with a small team from Tying Vines to Tajikistan, a country that shares an 870-mile border with Afghanistan. There we worked to set up WalkWithMe.global projects to help refugees displaced by the crisis.
Yes, I made them do a band shot! This was the perfect team to have on-the-ground to launch this work: the lawyer, the linguist, the strategist, and me.
It was a whirlwind week of meetings, collaborations, logistics, visits with refugees, and signing local partner MOUs so we are able to carry out our work; empowering locals to impact their own communities. Of course, that translates to vital aid and supplies for refugees in need.
Tajikistan is home to nearly 6,000 Afghan refugees at the moment, and that number is expected to grow to 100,000 over the next few months. The Tajik people are poor, kind, meek and provided great service to our team. It is one of the only neighboring countries willing to host Afghan refugees.
The UN has established two camps near the border to address any mass influx but very little, if anything, is being done for refugees residing in the government designated refugee communities we visited. These communities are in dire need of assistance. This is where we have decided to focus our relief efforts.
In some ways this trip, like so many I’ve taken into war-torn areas, was heartbreaking. I think we all shed a few tears listening to mothers and fathers share their horrific stories under Taliban tyranny. I’ve learned over the last few years, there’s no shame in crying with the broken. I often write at the end of each trip; a therapy for me where the tears and heartbreak give way to concrete action steps that lay the foundation for our programs; tears that propel us to action. Here are a few of their comments that will stay with me for a long while…
“My husband was beaten so badly by the Taliban he’s now an invalid.”
“The Taliban abducted and abused my young son for more than a month before we were able to escape.”
“I was a woman who worked for the ‘infidels’ – I was attacked and stabbed before I made it out.”
“I owned a fitness center for women. They threatened to kill my children. We left everything.”
“Women are no longer allowed to work. They threatened to bomb my home because I was a teacher.”
We met this young mother and her four children; malnourished and underweight for their age ranges. The children were all sleeping in the tiny room when we arrived.
This family, representative of at least 100 more we know of, fled to this neighboring country back in May when the Taliban threatened their lives.
I’m thankful to everyone who made it possible for us to respond to families like these. Our donors, those who organized supplies for us to carry in, and the Tying Vines team who traveled with me. It really was amazing to see all we can accomplish when we work together!
We are asking our donors to respond to three major needs:
1. Sponsor a refugee family for one month. Our goal is 100 families this year. Housing and Food: $300 per month per family.
2. Relocation Fund help Afghans who worked with Western organizations get to safety. It’s expensive – each one costs nearly $1,800.
3. Food Boxes –$70 will feed a family for one month.