Nazareth Academy held a toiletries drive to collect and package supplies for Afghan refugees on Wednesday. The students were encouraged to bring supplies to homeroom in preparation for Wednesday’s event.
Nicole Rozanski, a senior, said they collected items such as toothpaste, toothbrushes, hairbrushes, combs, feminine hygiene pads and candy.
“We had around 200 Ziploc bags and 20 boxes with them in there,” Rozanski said.
After the initial arrival of Afghan people earlier this fall, the Philadelphia airport has continued to welcome refugees.
Teacher Jim Daniels suggested the drive when he approached the Nationalities Service Center and asked them for information on how to get involved.
“I think we have an obligation to keep in mind that these are people that have gone through tremendous hardship and try to put yourself in their shoes,” he said.
At 38, Daniels enlisted in the military. He was first placed in Afghanistan in May 2010, and returned in 2012 as a civilian with UNESCO to work on a literacy project and help train teachers.
“It just really instilled in me a long-term, ongoing, deep kind of affection and connection with the country and its people,” Daniels said.
After speaking with the NSC, Daniels then approached Shannon Donnelly, the director of campus ministry and CSC, with the idea to get the school somehow involved with the drive.
“Very fortunately the Nationalities Services Center, they were adding a drop-off location to the Northeast,” Donnelly said. “And we were like, wow, it’s not a coincidence.”
“So it was really cool to see all the dots connect between [Daniels] story and the needs of our community,” Donnelly said.
Said Hashemi, an advocate with the NSC, said he believes that the city of Philadelphia has been very welcoming to refugees thus far.
“They are collecting all types of donations that can help these new arrivals to feel more warm and feel home and get access to what they need,” he said. “I think it’s going very well.”
Hashemi immigrated to the U.S. in 2019 when his work for the U.S. embassy put him in danger. The rest of his family, including his mother and siblings, are still in Afghanistan.
“I honestly lived in Philadelphia since I immigrated to the U.S., so I find Philadelphia friendly, and a warm welcoming environment. It is a diverse community and has a lot of acceptance and tolerance. I was happy to see them coming here to have a normal life,” Hashemi said.
Maddie Scott, a senior, said she believes that the plight of specifically women and girls touched a nerve at the all-girls school.
“I think people were very excited to give back and to do everything they can, even if it was only a little bit to make these refugees feel more welcome and feel more at home,” Scott said.
“I’ve been here for 4 years and between the students, faculty and staff, I’ve never seen better turnout,” she said.
Ultimately, Hashemi believes that the refugees will adjust with continued community support.
“Of course there might be some challenges, there will be some barriers for them,” Hashemi said. “Building the networks, finding the same food, but that takes time to get solved and I’m hopeful. They are in the right place to receive help and start a new life.” ••