El guía de Afghan Refugee School Impact (ARSI) & Afghan Youth Mentoring (AYM) Program under our Refugee Health Unit has been implemented for almost one year and we have exceeded our goal to serve 2500 newly arrived Afghan families in California. The program has been instrumental in transforming the lives of Afghan youth and families, offering them vital resources and support for academic and social success as they integrate into their new communities. Through personalized mentoring, support with mental health workshops, access to educational resources, and a multitude of other services, several success stories have emerged from this program. A few success stories are highlighted below. The program will run until June 2024. We are honored to continue supporting this important work; please keep an eye out for more program successes to come!

Ontrack for College and Career

Among the participants in one of San Diego’s AYM programs is a high school senior who was struggling with issues of self confidence, being unsure about their future, and experiencing conflicts at home. They joined the program with a friend and quickly connected with the larger group of youth. They took part in activities such as hiking and games, and began to consider enrolling in community college.  Then they stopped attending. The Coordinator contacted the youth and learned that their father had said they could no longer attend the mentoring program because he felt that the youth’s time would be better spent looking for a job so they could earn money to help support the family. The Coordinator, who is a respected Afghan Community leader reached out to the family and set up a home visit. During this home visit, which included sharing a meal, the Coordinator listened to the father’s concerns which were mostly relating to financial instability, and provided information on the long term benefits of college, availability of tuition assistance and how the AYM program could guide the youth and family through the process. It was agreed that the father would support the youth’s goal to go to college, as well as their involvement in the AYM Program if they would agree to also get a part time job. The youth is now enrolled as a part-time student at Grossmont Community College and also has a job. An additional benefit was that the youth’s older sibling was also inspired to enroll in college. The father is now a big fan of the AYM program and feels proud that his children are on track to earn college degrees.

Supporting Success and Self-Sufficiency

A young Afghan refugee has accomplished significant life goals through the support of the AYM program in Los Angeles. The client who is 22 years old, arrived from Afghanistan to the US in December 2022. The participant had just completed high school and was restricted by the Taliban to pursue higher education in Afghanistan. The client had eight family members who they had to support and was of age to attend college before leaving Afghanistan. However, the participant could not pursue higher education in Afghanistan due to the Taliban’s banning of girls from attending school. In the beginning, the client was hesitant to join the program because of all the responsibilities at home with their siblings and family.

The International Rescue Committee (IRC), a sub-awardee of the ARSI/AYM program in Los Angeles, provided AYM services to the participant through mentorship, access to services, English language support, increased social connections, enhanced confidence and self-efficacy workshops, increased life skills, and support with career and education. The skills the client gained from this support  allowed them to successfully get a part-time job at a pizza shop. The participant is also enrolling in career technical education programs, pursuing English-Second Language (ESL) classes, and working towards a career in computer science. In addition, the participant was able to  open a bank account and IRC helped them set up direct deposit to their account for work. The participant is also now studying for the driver’s license exam. The ARSI/AYM program has allowed many  participants, like the one mentioned in this story, to make incremental moves toward bigger life goals and has significantly improved their quality of life.

Building Unity and Emotional Wellness through Arts

Three ARSI program sub-awardees Global Emergency Response and Assistance (GERA), Sacramento Area League of Associated Muslims (SALAM), and Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) joined forces to organize an Art workshop series for Afghan youth in Sacramento. The sub-awardees collaborated on an Afghan Youth Art workshop for School-Age Children and Youths between 15-24 that will be held monthly. These workshops are also open to parents to attend to create paintings and artwork to help them with their creative freedom. Workshops were led by an Afghan artist who specializes in abstract art. These workshops were advertised during Sacramento’s coalition meetings and many referred participants from other organizations attended. The artwork and workshops have been beneficial to the participants’ mental health because they provide them with a space where they can express themselves, tell a story with their art, and just learn and share creativity. 

Collaboration for Resources and Connections

Prior to the formation of the San Francisco Bay Area ARSI/AYM Coalition there was very little coordination between organizations serving the Afghan community. One of the successes of the ARSI program has been to radically change this dynamic to one where providers are co-creating and facilitating activities. An example of this occurred over the summer when ARSI-AYM sub-awardee ICNA Relief in coordination with Salaam Food Pantry hosted a universal outreach event. The event was organized in Fremont at various locations near masjids and community centers that combined distribution of more than 200 donated backpacks to students. A presentation was delivered by a local Mufti (Islamic Scholar) followed by a robust question and answer session where families were able to discuss their concerns regarding education and ability to maintain adherence to their religious beliefs and practices within local schools. This event also provided an opportunity for families to enroll up for ongoing ARSI programming such as after-school tutoring and one-on-one family engagement services. One of the families who attended this event had only recently arrived in the US so they were especially grateful to be able to connect to the program and meet other Afghan families in a very welcoming environment. Through ARSI, they were able to connect with a local masjid and enrolled their children with ICNA Relief’s after-school program to help them with school success.


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