Hiba Muhyi was preparing to begin her senior year at New Mexico State University when horrific images from across the world started to appear on the news.
Just before the fall semester at NMSU, the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan in an uprising that plunged the country into chaos and sent thousands of Afghans fleeing for their lives.
Watching the situation unfold from afar, Muhyi and her mother, Rajaa Shindi, sprang into action.
Muhyi, an English major, and Shindi, an assistant professor of accounting and information systems in the College of Business, started mobilizing students and organizations across NMSU to assist Afghan refugees resettling in southern New Mexico. Together, the mother-daughter duo launched the NMSU Afghan Refugee Response project.
“As a child of immigrant parents, I’m naturally passionate about these sorts of topics and helping communities that are very similar to my own,” Muhyi said.
The project initially began as a call for volunteer translators, Muhyi said, but has since morphed into a more ambitious effort to assist long-term refugees in collaboration with the Las Cruces Muslim community, Afghan Refugee Crisis Committee, Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Services, and Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains.
Since late August, Muhyi said, more than 80 volunteers have come together to support the refugee project in various ways, from donating goods to serving as cultural mentors and translators. The group has collected more than 100 household items to furnish several temporary apartments for displaced Afghan families, Muhyi added, and the donations keep coming in.
“It’s been much more than just furniture donations,” Shindi said. “Our volunteers are helping these families learn English, apply for jobs, enroll their kids in school and adapt to a new society. There are so many things that they need right now, and our volunteers are making a meaningful difference in supporting Afghan refugees at a time when they need help.”
Muhyi said the outpouring of support from the NMSU community has surpassed her expectations.
“We’ve had such a great response from department heads, professors, presidents of student organizations and others asking what can they do either as an individual or a group to assist with the refugees,” she said. “We’ve had a variety of people who are willing to do whatever they can to help and assist.”
Muhyi praised several campus groups for contributing to the project, including the NMSU chapter of the Association of Information Technology Professionals, Pre-Pharmacy Society, Pre-Dental Society, Black Student Organization, Student Social Work Association and the English Graduate Student Organization.
Currently, Muhyi is hosting a winter coat and blanket drive-in collaboration with the Pre-Pharmacy Society and Pre-Dental Society. Those interested in donating coats or blankets can drop off items in designated boxes in Hardman and Jacobs Undergraduate Learning Center and Aggie Lounge in Corbett Center Student Union through Friday, Dec. 10, Muhyi said.
Last month, Muhyi and Shindi toured an Afghan refugee camp at Fort Bliss and met other volunteers helping to resettle families.
“We got to meet some of the countless volunteers helping with donation sorting and assisting at the multiple store sites, where free clothes, shoes, infant food, and other items are provided and distributed to the refugees,” Muhyi said. “But there is still a great need for dedicated volunteers and donations.”
Muhyi said the most-needed items include school supplies, closed-toe shoes, children and infant winter clothes, men’s and women’s winter clothes, and hygiene items. To donate through the NMSU Afghan Refugee Response project, contact Muhyi at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For Muhyi, overseeing the project has been a time-consuming but rewarding experience.
“It’s been challenging but worth all the efforts and long hours,” she said. “It’s very much a team effort, however. I want to thank Dr. Shindi, the NMSU community and all our volunteers for their support and assistance in helping these families.”
Author: Carlos Andres López – NMSU