Charity for Afghan refugees ‘overwhelmed’ by donations

An Afghan refugee charity in Feltham in need of more volunteers has been ‘overwhelmed’ by donations.

The Afghanistan and Central Asian Association (ACAA) was established in 2001 by Dr Nooralhaq Nasimi, based on the lessons he learned while adjusting to the UK when he first arrived.

Since the charity’s inception Dr Nasimi, 54, and his team have helped thousands of Afghan families settle in London.

The charity, which currently has 12 volunteers, had approximately 45 throughout most of the pandemic.

However, nothing could have prepared them for the fall of Afghanistan and the subsequent deluge of refugees into London.

The ACAA became the main contact point for Afghans arriving in the UK.

At the height of the crisis shortly after Kabul fell, they helped more than 6000 people within two weeks.

For months, hundreds of Afghan evacuees queued outside the charity’s headquarters in Feltham every day.

Dr Nasimi’s son Darius, 21, and recent King’s College graduate, said: “They would arrive at five in the morning and would stay there until we opened the doors at ten.

“We would work flat-out all day until closing time but still more would come each morning.”

But it was not just a surplus of evacuees that arrived on the doorstep of the ACAA.

One wall of a large tent with hundreds of clothes on racking
A DAUNTING TASK: Just one wall of donations that has not been sorted through yet.

Many donations from London residents piled in, and a large outdoor tent was erected to store them after the ground floor of the building was filled up.

Darius said: “Some days it felt like it was lorry after lorry of donations. it was a logistical nightmare.

“Pallets of stuff would be sitting everywhere we looked.

“We didn’t have time to look at what was in most of the crates; we were overwhelmed by donations.”

Rose Mcgrath, 56, has the monumental task of sorting through and organising donations for the ACAA.

She said: “Although it was great to be generous in what we gave away, the task of sorting things out and classifying it all was – it gives me a migraine just remembering it.

“At the time it did feel like people were just dumping their unwanted stuff on us rather than actually trying to help.

“Even now we have too much and not enough hands to sort through it all.”

Except for technology donations, the ACAA has had to halt receiving any more from London residents.

Unopened boxes and suitcases full of donations
READY TO BE PASSED ON: Boxes and suitcases full of donations ready to be given over to refugees

Despite the headache of recent months, Dr Nooralhaq Nasimi says there is plenty to be thankful for: “We talk to these refugees every day; we look in their eyes and hear their stories.

“And although there is worry for the future of Afghanistan, there is also so much joy.

“They are so thankful to be in the UK and are so eager to contribute and be a part of this great country.

“I love this country; it has given me and my children so much.

“The UK welcomed me like one of its own. It can improve the lives of others too, and that is something to celebrate.”

Dr Nooralhaq Nasimi stands with his son and a picture of his father
THREE GENERATIONS: Dr Nooralhaq Nasimi [middle], with his son Darius [left], and his father [right]

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