Meredith Students Show Support for Afghan Refugee Families
By Gaye Hill
In November 2021, the Office of the Chaplain, Sisters United, Meredith International Association, Meredith Immigrant and Refugee Club, and the Student Government Association (SGA) organized a basic household goods drive for Afghan refugee families moving into the Raleigh area.
Many items were collected and donated to the Raleigh Baptist Association. Geeti Mohammed Zahir, ’23, a student from Afghanistan, serves as a student assistant for Stacy Pardue, Meredith’s chaplain. Zahir, SGA President Sarah Powell, ’22, and Pardue delivered donated items to families and met with a number of them.
Zahir said Pardue asked her if she would like to meet and mentor two of the women. “I immediately said yes and was very excited to see them,” said Zahir. “When I went to see the girls, there were other new Afghan families that were going through a crisis as well and asked for help.”
According to Pardue, the families spent several months in refugee camps located in Wisconsin and Virginia and now have permanently relocated to Raleigh.
Raleigh faith communities are working together to help set up apartments and provide needed items.
“Many of the people we met had literally one outfit and only one pair of flip flops for shoes,” said Pardue. “As you can imagine, they have been through a traumatic experience. They have family members who are still in Afghanistan and they are now in Raleigh with very little.”
Some of the women told Pardue they knew how to sew, so she sent out a request to campus for sewing machines. She was pleased with the positive response.
“Seven Meredith employees have offered sewing machines for me to take to the community center near where the families are living. I’m working with the center director to begin sewing classes for the women to make clothing.”
The children were not scheduled to start school until January, so the SGA Executive Board and Sisters United hosted an outdoor picnic and games for the children and their parents at the community center.
Student Support Comes Full Circle
For Zahir, a political science major who is minoring in pre-law, helping the families has given her a closer look at what they actually went through when they fled their country.
“We had seen many news reports when the Taliban took control over Afghanistan, but being present with its people and hearing their stories will give us a chance to walk a mile in their shoes,” she said.
Zahir also knows what it’s like to be on the other end of such support. As a child, she attended an after-school program hosted by Lutheran Family Services, a regional nonprofit organization that provided refugee resettlement services. Pardue brought Meredith students to help children with their homework – among them, Zahir.
Now at Meredith herself, Zahir, who also works for the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI), said there are a number of ways to get involved in the project. She suggested that those who are interested contact the Chaplain’s Office.
“I hope we will be able to help these families with their essential needs and let them know that the worst is in the past,” said Zahir. “I also hope this effort will encourage others to help people in need.”