The former presidents and first ladies are part of Welcome.US, a nationwide initiative to support new arrivals from Afghanistan

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Former Presidents help refugees
From left: First Lady Laura Bush, President George W. Bush, President Bill Clinton, Secretary Hillary Clinton, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama with President George H. W. Bush (below).
| Credit: Paul Morse/getty

A group of former presidents and first ladies is working together to give a warm welcome to new neighbors arriving from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

George W. Bush and Laura Bush, Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and Michelle Obama are serving as honorary co-chairs of a new national initiative called Welcome.US, whose mission is welcome and support refugees relocating to the U.S., starting with individuals and families who recently left their homes behind in Afghanistan.

Welcome.US launched Tuesday, announcing its plans to provide "a single point of entry to channel the outpouring support of Americans who want to get involved by donating supplies, money, or time to frontline organizations; offering temporary housing; or sponsoring Afghan families as they start new lives in the United States," the organization said in a press release.

According to the State Department, more than 23,000 refugees have arrived in the country since the U.S. began large-scale evacuations from Afghanistan in August before ending the war there after 20 years.

"At the heart of so many faiths is the idea that we should do unto others as we would have them do unto us," the Obamas said in a joint statement.

"Many of the refugees fleeing Afghanistan stood by America and risked everything for a chance at a better life," the Obamas continued. "Many women and girls in particular were at risk of losing their basic human rights, and are just looking for a chance to live, work, and raise their families free from fear. Through Welcome.US, we can welcome and support our new Afghan neighbors, and reaffirm our common humanity."

Afghanistan evacuations
People wait to board a plane at Kabul International Airport in August, 2021.
| Credit: MSgt Donald R Allen/AP/Shutterstock

Welcome.US has set up the Welcome Fund, which is collecting donations to provide grants to nonprofits whose efforts include helping support refugees starting new lives in America. Those looking to help can also donate time or resources directly to dozens of affiliated organizations.

There's also a call for sponsors to lend a hand in the communities where refugees are settling. Sponsors might act as a guide to help newcomers find a home, seek medical care, enroll kids in schools, pick up groceries, find work and other tasks involved in relocating to another country.

"Thousands of Afghans stood with us on the front lines to push for a safer world, and now they need our help," the Bushes said in their own statement. "We are proud to support Welcome.US and the work to help Afghan families get settled and build new lives. We stand ready to show our new Afghan neighbors and the rest of the world how a welcoming and generous spirit forms the backbone of what makes our country so great."

Kabul airport
The scene at Kabul International Airport in August, 2021.
| Credit: WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP via Getty

Some big backers are already on board.

At launch, Welcome.US announced that Instacart will partner with the International Rescue Committee to donate 25,000 culturally appropriate grocery meals to Afghan refugees, while Walmart announced a $500,000 grant for the Welcome Fund and the Starbucks Foundation will give $350,000 to nonprofit organizations supporting Afghan Special Immigrant Visa applicants and refugee resettlement.

"This is the right way for all of us to fulfill our responsibility to our Afghan partners and give these new neighbors the support they need," the Clintons said. "No country should ever take lightly the moral obligation to protect its allies who unite for freedom. Welcome.US shows us and the world what's best about America—and why we are so hopeful about its future."