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'Our duty': Meet the selfless volunteers helping Afghan refugees land on their feet

Mansoor Hashimi packing donations in his garage. Source: Provided by source

Volunteers in Adelaide are loading up their cars with donated items and distributing them to newly-arrived Afghan refugees, though there are calls for more boots on the ground.

A number of volunteering initiatives are underway in South Australia to assist Afghan refugees who recently arrived following their chaotic evacuation from Kabul airport.

SBS Pashto understands that around 200 Afghans have been resettled in Adelaide after the federal government managed to evacuate a total of 4,100 people from Kabul after it fell to the Taliban in mid-August.

To assist them settle into their new country, former international student from Afghanistan Mansoor Hashimi is collecting donated items from various aid organisations and delivering them to the refugees.


Highlights:

  • Two Afghan community members in Adelaide are collecting donations for refugees who have recently arrived.
  • It's understood that some 200 Afghans have been resettled in Adelaide.
  • They are calling for more government assistance in providing help to the refugees.

Mr Hashimi loads up his car weekly to deliver to the refugees in Adelaide.
Mr Hashimi loads up his car weekly to deliver to the refugees in Adelaide.
Supplied by source

A volunteer for more than a decade, Mr Hashimi's inspiration comes in knowing that his work is making a difference.

"I am only doing volunteer work because I feel that it's my duty and I have to do it. I really enjoy knowing that my work has made a difference and it helped someone feel better,” he says.

“Recently, I have started distributing donations that many organisations or individuals provide to the new arrivals [from Afghanistan]. I am just a connecting bridge between donors and the new arrivals.”

The organisations providing the items include Relationships Australia South Australia, Pedare Christian College, Hepatitis Council SA and the Afghan Australian Women Association, as well as community members.

The donations range from clothing, cutlery, kitchenware, groceries, hygiene items and other necessities.

“On some occasions, mobile phones and vouchers were also provided when families requested.

“All new arrivals require lots of support in the first few weeks of their arrival. Especially those who have left Afghanistan in an emergency evacuation.”

Mansoor Hashemi packs his car several times a week.
Mansoor Hashimi packs his car several times a week.
Provided by source

Mr Hashimi knows firsthand the difficulties experienced by people settling in a new country.

When he arrived in 2007, he says the first weeks were very difficult because of the “cultural shock,” and it was not easy leaving loved ones behind in Afghanistan.

“Coming to a country with a different culture, language and way of life is not easy and requires lots of support and skills to settle.

“I wished there was someone who would call or come and tell me that everything will be alright.

Due to my personal experience and seeing the need for such work to assist new arrivals, I decided to do my part.

Supplied by source
Supplied by source

However, he believes more needs to be done.

“I can confidently say that if the volunteers and community members such as us, didn’t provide these support services, then the new arrivals would have been in a very bad situation,” he says.

“I did contact the responsible organisation and did complain about the slowness of the service they provide. Although their response was understandable, but not convincing.

“I would like to request these organisations to reach volunteers or organisations who are already on the ground.”

There are a number of government avenues available for new arrivals to receive assistance when they arrive in Australia, but it’s dependant on an individual’s visa status.

Assistance can include welfare payments, access to settlement services and help in accessing aid from external organisations. 

“I would also like to request the government to take the extra support of these organisations into consideration and increase funding for the projects that could help these new arrivals further and make their settlement process smooth,” Mr Hashimi says.

House shortage

Samander Sediqi is a former Afghan interpreter and cultural advisor who worked alongside Australian forces in Afghanistan from 2013 and 2016.

The Adelaide resident began volunteering for his community after arriving in November 2016.

Samander with other community members wait outside of hotel quarantine to welcome the new arrivals.
Mr Sediqi with other community members wait outside of hotel quarantine to welcome the new arrivals.
Provided by source

In 2018, he founded the Afghan Association South Australia, a non-profit organisation that provides services to community members statewide.

“When I came to Australia in 2016, I saw what problems people face when they come from Afghanistan or other countries,” he says

"There was no community available to help them voluntarily and solve their problems. Especially those who did not know English had a hard time."

Samander Sediqi (right) during Afghanistan's independence day celebration ceremony in Adelaide.
Samander Sediqi (right) during Afghanistan's independence day celebration ceremony in Adelaide.
Supplied by source

Mr Sediqi's organisation helps through donation collections and assistance in securing housing.

“We have some friends, we asked them and they voluntarily donated new clothes and home furnishing to new arrivals.

“There is a shortage of houses for new migrants. In South Australia, there are 17 families who completed their quarantine and they are staying in temporary accommodation to find houses.

“We have helped them to find houses, the people who did not have clothes, we helped them with clothes.”