Afghan refugees arrive in Los Angeles, begin new lives with help from local nonprofits

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Friday, September 17, 2021
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The unforgettable images of America's exit from Afghanistan in August marked, for the people in those photos, a new beginning of life as a refugee.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The unforgettable images of America's exit from Afghanistan in August marked, for the people in those photos, a new beginning of life as a refugee.

Sediqullah Reshtin and his family left Kabul the day before the Taliban arrived, and landed in Los Angeles on a special visa for American allies.

"I was working for the US mission in Afghanistan for four and a half years," Said Reshtin, who moved with his wife and three children.

As California prepares to take in more than 5,000 Afghan refugees, as projected by the White House, government-backed programs help families start over with housing, jobs, and language. But the new life is also an empty one.

"It's been hard moving to a new city and a new country, especially this country is so different," said Reshtin. "Cultural differences, religious, the language differences, style of living."

California to take in more than 5,200 Afghan evacuees, more than any other US state

Miry Whitehill wants to help change that. Out of her backyard, she runs Miry's List, a nonprofit that helps provide the basics, like clothes, tool kits, toiletries, and lots of diapers. Her team has helped resettle more than 600 families in five years. It started with one.

"I was in their living room and looking around and I realized, they didn't have a baby seat," said Whitehill. "They didn't have anywhere to put the baby down. And so that baby was just in their arms all the time."

Today, donations come in from and go out to families around the country.

They've become more personal over time, with homemade cards and blankets, a reflection of people donating essentials that go beyond the tangible.

"These interventions are reminders to our families that they are certainly not alone here," said Whitehill.

For Reshtin, it's a sense of belonging.

"It's makes us feel like we're in our home," said Reshtin.