‘I’m glad they are feeling a little bit of peace’: Local couple opens home to Afghan refugees

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SAN DIEGO — San Diego families are going above and beyond to make Afghan refugees feel safe after they escaped from terror in their home country. 

Todd Blakesley and Lee Lawless welcomed an Afghan family of six into their University Heights home on Saturday.

The couple has hosted a number of international exchange students for 20 years, but this is their first time hosting an Afghan refugee family.

“Just try it, try it once, I think you’ll get hooked,” Lawless said. “I thought it would be four, that’s okay we had enough room.”

They felt compelled to help families forced to start their lives over in a foreign country.

“I’m glad they are feeling a little bit of peace, that’s the thing,” Blakesley said. “I can’t envision the horrors they go through in order to get here.”

San Diego is where they say they feel safe after conditions worsen for father Noor, who was a hotel chef, and son Nisar, who is a nurse.

“The life was so difficult and dangerous,” said Nisar Samadi, an Afghan refugee. “[Todd and Lee] are so kind to us and we love them.”

In just three days, a stranger’s home has become a safe space to learn, exchange traditions and try new things.

Noor said he has been using his cooking skills to prepare breakfast like pancakes and scrambled eggs for both families.

“Noor is a little modest in his cooking capabilities,” Blakesley said. “Some of them are just incredibly delicious.” 

While Blakesley and Lawless have given up their time and resources, they say the community is also stepping up to help them.

“We’ve got food in the garage,” Lawless said. “You won’t even believe that people have brought over. The generosity that comes from others is pretty amazing.”

It’s been a blessing for the Samadi’s, but Blakesley and Lawless say they are gaining more than they are giving.

“You learn more about the world, you make connections and they bring back a good experience to where they live, and hopefully that makes the world a more peaceful place,” Blakesley said.

The Samadi’s will be staying with the couple for two to three weeks and hope to get an apartment, get their kids back in school and start applying for jobs. They are also trying to reunite with their other son who is currently in Germany.

If anyone is interested in hosting a refugee family, they can visit Alliance for African Assistance’s website. If they would like to help in other ways, host families also suggest donating to nonprofits like Miry’s List Afghan Refugee Resettlement Fund or Second Families SD.

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