A team of UC Berkeley students, staff, faculty and scholars has launched a fundraising campaign aimed at helping Afghan scholars flee from their country as the Taliban continues to take control of it.
Officially called the “Scholars at Risk Fund”, the group is a partnership between the campus Human Rights Center, or HRC, San Jose State’s Human Rights Institute and the UC Berkeley Afghan Student Association to help raise funds to evacuate at-risk Afghanistan scholars, according to the executive director of the HRC, Alexa Koenig.
“The Scholars at Risk program reached out to Chancellor Christ here at UC Berkeley to see if the campus would accept a scholar from Afghanistan on an urgent basis,” said Koenig in an email. “The next day, we had the approval – and the executive vice chancellor for research had said that he would create a matching fund of $100,000 to kickstart the campaign.”
The funding will be used for flights, lodging and other resettlement costs. Koenig added that they also hope to create a stipend to assist the individuals as they settle on campus as visiting scholars.
The crowdfunding campaign page identifies specific individuals who the fund will directly help. Among them are a prominent journalist and women’s rights activist as well as a legal scholar who has been targeted for his work, according to Koenig.
“What we are really hoping is that this project scales–and ends up expanding far beyond our two campuses,” Koenig said in an email. “Our teams have been conducting outreach to other colleges and universities to figure out which campuses are willing and able to take in people as they arrive in the United States.”
Koenig and other participants in the Scholars at Risk Fund have already expressed their enthusiasm to help mentor other campuses that choose to participate.
All funds are dedicated to keeping families together and ensuring a safe journey to campus from Afghanistan, according to Koenig. Campus has waived the usual administrative fees, which has made it easier for the group to ensure that their resources and fundraising do not go to waste, according to Koenig.
“We are lucky at the Human Rights Center to have a network of extraordinary Berkeley students and alums, all of whom care deeply about social justice, who have been incredible about spreading the word and asking for help,” Koenig said in an email. “The speed and passion with which people have responded reflects the best of Berkeley, as well as this country.”