Restaurants owned by Afghan immigrants lend helping hand to refugees fleeing the Taliban
[August 28, 2021: Daniella Genovese]
A family of Afghan immigrants – forced to flee their homeland during the Soviet invasion in the 1980s – is collecting donations to help local Afghan refugees get back on their feet after fleeing the Taliban. And they're turning to their Washington D.C.-based restaurants to do it.
Fatima Popal, whose family owns Lapis, Berliner and Lutece, told reporters that her family knew all too well what it was like in their shoes. "We are also refugees from a different time of war in Afghanistan." "Unfortunately, Afghanistan has been at war for 40 plus years, never seen a day of peace."
In terms of helping those people directly in Afghanistan, Popal said their hands "were tied."
So, her family thought of a way they channel their sadness and emotion "through a donation drive to at least help the Afghans that are resettling here."
It started with a simple Instagram post, she said.
Popal explained that they decided to use their restaurant's social media pages to advertise the donation drive and designated two of their locations as the drop-off points.
However, very quickly the community caught wind and donations started to pour in.
"Overnight, we woke up and it was, you know, shared by some people and the response was just amazing," she said.
Within a 24-hour span, they were able to fill two to three truckloads of donations ranging from clothing, hygiene items, furniture and schools supplies to children's toys.
"Both restaurants were so full of donations that I needed to get trucks and start mobilizing them out or else I was going to have to just cut it off within the first day," she said.
The donations were then shipped off to a range of resettling agencies and charities like the International Rescue Committee and Homes not Borders.
However, due to space limitations, they had to stop accepting physical donations and are now asking for smaller items like gift cards that can help pay for things such as plane tickets and even temporary housing.
It allows them to help families directly.
In fact, Popal was able to use donated funds to buy tickets for six Afghan family members that were stuck at the Washington Dulles International Airport and needed to get to Arizona, she said.
If "you're Afghan, the blood, our bloodline and just the love for our country…it's so strong that, you know, even from afar, we're hurt by it," Popal said. "And seeing what's going on every single day is is truly difficult for all of us."
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