Bay Area organizations, universities ramp up efforts to bring Afghan refugees to U.S.

Halima Kazem-Stojanovic, born in Kabul and raised in San Jose, spent more than a decade working in Afghanistan, training scholars and befriending Afghan journalists and activists.

Now, she's helping them continue their work in the United States.

"The calls keep coming, every day," Kazem-Stojanovic, the core faculty member at San Jose State University's Human Rights Institute, and a lecturer at the university's journalism department said. "I get dozens and dozens of messages from worried Afghans. But now we can tell them we've got something in place, that hopefully, we can help you with."

She's referring to the network of more than 15 colleges and universities she's assembled to sponsor Afghan scholars, academics, activists, and journalists and bring them to teach at universities in the United States.

UC Berkeley's Human Rights Center and UC Santa Cruz are also involved in the sponsorship efforts.

By Sunday night, UC Berkeley and SJSU had crowdfunded $107,413. The fundraiser was started just a few days prior. 

The money goes toward paying for flights, visas, and support for when Afghans arrive in the United States.

"We're trying to help them come here and do the work they did, and be able to share that knowledge. The J1 Foreign Scholar Visa is a route we can take," Kazem-Stojanovic said.

Jewish Family and Community Services of the East Bay, an organization with a long history of resettling refugees from around the globe, is also seeing a surge in demand for resettlement services.

In August alone, the agency welcomed 46 Afghan refugees. It's working to support another 74 who are still in the process of getting to the Bay Area.

The number of refugees they're helping climbs by the day, as do donations to the organization's Amazon wish list.

Close to 1,500 volunteer applications came into JFCS East Bay in the past week,  according to Holly Taines White, Senior Director of Development and Community Engagement at Jewish Family and Community Services East Bay. 

"The outpouring has been just tremendous," White said. "Heartwarming, and moving."