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NMSU student, professor launch effort to support Afghan refugees in NM

Hiba Muhyi never imagined leading a coordinated effort to support Afghan families resettling in southern New Mexico, but that’s where she found herself during her senior year at NMSU.

Muhyi, an English major, is the driving force behind the NMSU Afghan Refugee Response project, an initiative she launched in 2021 with her mother, Rajaa Shindi ’06 ’14, to aid refugees who fled Afghanistan after the Taliban seized control of the country. Shindi is an assistant professor of accounting and information systems in the College of Business.

The project started as a one-time call for volunteer translators but has since morphed into an ongoing, more ambitious undertaking to leverage community partnerships to assist long-term Afghan refugees in southern New Mexico.

“I had no idea it was going to turn into this whole project,” Muhyi says. “But I’m happy to do the work.”

Last fall, about 80 volunteers from NMSU and beyond came together to support the project. Many served as cultural mentors and translators, and others donated much-needed clothing and furniture items. By the start of 2022, the number of volunteers exceeded 100.

In February 2022, Muhyi and Shindi introduced new outreach efforts, including a clothing closet where refugees can pick up free clothes, and weekly classes and workshops designed to empower participants through education.

The classes aim to teach English to women and young girls, while the workshops cover basic technology skills. Students from NMSU’s chapter of the Association of Information Technology Professionals – a student organization advised by Shindi – also volunteered over several days in spring 2022 to help refugees create résumés.

“This to me is a way for students to build their soft skills – communicating, learning about different cultures, helping others,” Shindi says. “Of course, at the same time, we’re supporting our Afghani guests who came to Las Cruces – and we want to continue to support them as much as we can going forward.”

Muhyi says she plans to continue to lead the project for the foreseeable future. She says the experience has brought her great joy and allowed her to engage with dedicated volunteers and support families at their moment of most need.

After graduating in May 2022, Muhyi hopes to find a career involving her three passions: community service, education and English literature. 

“If there’s a way to combine those things, that’d be perfect,” she says.

Rajaa Shindi (left) and her daughter, Hiba Muhyi, launched the NMSU Afghan Refugee Response project in 2021 to help Afghan refugees resettling in southern New Mexico. Shindi is an assistant professor of accounting and information systems in the College of Business, and Muhyi is a senior majoring in English.
In February 2022, Hiba Muhyi established a free clothing closet at the Southern New Mexico Islamic Center for Afghan refugees as part of the NMSU Afghan Refugee Response project.