Photo by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona on Unsplash

By Leah Harris

The world is watching in horror as the crisis in Afghanistan unfolds. But for the over 60,000 Afghan-Americans currently residing in the East Bay Area, the humanitarian catastrophe could not hit closer to home.

Local Afghan-Americans report experiencing multiple forms of trauma. “I can tell you that our community here is not sleeping, we’re worried about our homeland. Everyone is stressed and hurt,” restaurant owner Wahida Atebar told the San Francisco Chronicle.

And as social innovator and researcher Bushra Ebadi tweeted: “Advocate for trauma-informed and culturally relevant supports for Afghan refugees and asylum seekers. Historically, mental health support has been underfunded and overlooked. PTSD, intergenerational trauma are real.”

For those fleeing Afghanistan now, evacuation and resettlement do not represent the end of the story. “There is a grieving process that happens when you witness war,” Fouzia Azizi, director of refugee services for Jewish Family and Community Services East Bay, explained to The Oaklandside. “The folks that we get in the next two to three weeks will be coming with anxiety, fear for themselves, and fear for their families.” 

On top of trauma, it is common for newly arrived refugees to experience multiple forms of culture shock. And logistical challenges in a new and unfamiliar country only add to the stress. Amidst the Bay Area housing crisis, COVID-19, and wildfire danger facing the East Bay, finding housing for refugee families can be a formidable challenge. 

While the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan is dire, there is something each one of us can do to show support and solidarity with Afghan refugees and the local Afghan-American community. Here are some ideas and resources for you to get started. 

Share these culturally relevant East Bay mental health resources for immigrants and refugees. 

  • Afghan Wellness Project. A program of the Afghan Coalition designed to provide culturally sensitive prevention and early intervention mental health services and increase access to mental health treatment for Afghans living in Alameda County. 
  • Jewish Family and Community Services East Bay mental health programs for Afghans, Iranians, Iraqis, Syrians, and Russians. Farsi-, Dari-, Arabic-, and Russian-speaking staff available. Call for more information: (925) 927-2000
  • Partnerships for Trauma Recovery’s Mosaic Healing Center in Berkeley. “Through culturally aware, trauma-informed and linguistically accessible mental health care, we support the healing of refugees, asylees, asylum seekers and human trafficking survivors.” 

Volunteer to help support caseworkers coordinating resettlement of Afghan families in the East Bay. To be notified of volunteer opportunities to support newly arriving neighbors, fill out the JFCS Community Support Form. It is requested that volunteers have access to a car and commit to a minimum period of 3-6 months, as well as weekday and daytime availability.

Donate to resettlement agencies providing trauma healing and mental health supports, or purchase needed items via their wish lists. 

For further reading

Leah Harris is a non-binary, queer, neurodivergent, disabled Jewish writer, facilitator, and organizer working in the service of truth-telling, justice-doing, and liberation. They’ve had work published in the New York Times, CNN, and Pacific Standard. You can learn more about their work at their website and follow them on Instagram.