St. Louis Welcomes Over 1,000 Refugees


The International Institute of St. Louis’ main goal is “to build a more connected and productive society to benefit immigrants, their families, and the wider community.” The IISTL has been working with immigrants and volunteers since it was founded in 1919 and is gearing up to help refugees from Afghanistan arriving in St. Louis.

Vivian Richey, Writing Wizard

Two streets, including Arsenal, were closed off to traffic as drivers were forced to detour from their usual routes, but it was for a good cause: St. Louisans were dropping off donations at the International Institute of St. Louis (IISTL) to help Afghan refugees who are to arrive in St. Louis soon.

“It was awesome to see everyone coming together and helping out. We even had people staying after they dropped things off to help support the organization as well as to help people unload donations from their car,” said Wafa Osman, a Community Sponsorship Coordinator at the IISTL.

There has been lots of controversy surrounding America’s involvement in Afghanistan as well as President Joe Biden’s decision to remove American troops from Afghanistan. 

“I know that I was highly frustrated with the exit process. I truly believe that it could have been done with compassion and empathy. I know that if the American leaders really considered humanity then maybe we wouldn’t have had so many murdered Afghan people, displaced families, and orphaned children. All that could have been prevented,” said Afghan Refugee Soroda Nasiri, who left Afghanistan at just 3 years old. 

On Aug. 17, St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones and St. Louis County Executive Sam Page released a joint statement welcoming Afghan special immigrant visa holders to the St. Louis area. In response, the official St. Louis County Twitter account posted a list from the IISTL of items needed to help the refugees resettle in St. Louis.

“I saw the list on Twitter and saw that most of the things were available at the Dollar Store and were things that I already always have access to,” said senior Valerie Whitlock, who purchased and donated items to the cause.

Organizations like the IISTL have plans for setting up homes for refugees and plans to help get them established while working through the immigration process.

“We do find apartments for families; we furnish those apartments for them. We also help them get acclimated to their community, whether it’s setting them up with committee members who can help them, teaching them how to ride the bus, taking classes, or finding a job. Financial support is one thing that we are looking at right now so we can help support these families for up to three or six months,” said Osman

The IISTL is one opportunity for students to get involved with welcoming refugees. Some more local organizations include Welcome Neighbor and the House of Goods Baitulmal.

While setting up a place to stay and getting necessities for individuals is greatly needed, emotional support is important too.

“Know that the refugees coming to the USA are excited and relieved that they are not under the power of the Taliban anymore but are still scared. It’s a completely different country, culture, language, food and people, “said Nasiri “Be kind and gentle with them as their hearts are broken. As everything they knew was stolen from them. Seek to understand and remember to always be kind and patient. Remember they are hurting.”

Refugees coming from Afghanistan might be experiencing survivor’s remorse or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, according to Nasiri.

“I’m concerned about this wave of trauma, addiction, depression and other disorders that the Afghan people will be hit with. My concern is how do we help them out? What can we do to help those individuals? What do we do with all of the orphaned kids who endured so much pain? What will happen to their future? Will they be offered free therapy,” said Nasiri.

Drop off for donations is open from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the International Institute located at 3401 Arsenal Street in St. Louis, Mo. Monetary donations are also taken online. 

“This was really important to me because it was such a good opportunity to help with something so big. There are real families coming here that don’t have anything, and it felt good to make a positive difference and know that I was contributing to something important,” said Whitlock.

“I will leave you with this: My birth land is beautiful, full of natural resources and rich in culture. The people are resilient, generous, kind, nurturing and full of delicious cuisine. Don’t let the news fool you, painting us as savages. We are not. We might have fallen now, but like always, we will rise again. Remember to be kind to one another no matter the race, color or gender. We are one. We are all connected,” said Nasiri.