By Elizabeth Meade Howard

Seven months ago, Haji Mohammad Ghaznavi with his wife and two sons fled from Kabul, Afghanistan. Now after other short stays, the Ghaznavi family is relieved and grateful to be living in Charlottesville. They have been dependent, however, on walking, taking the bus or IRC’s HOME team members to drive them to run errands, get groceries, and seek medical care for their younger son who has extensive medical issues which make it hard for him to walk. The Ghaznavis badly needed their own car to get him to many doctor appointments.

Mohammad Ibrahim Sultani receiving a donated car on March 11, 2022.

Recently, the Ghaznavis were the lucky recipients of a used 2013 Nissan Altima, given to the IRC through its Vehicle Donation program. “Having a car has made all the difference, especially getting my son to the hospital,” says Haji, a former Security Officer with U.S forces in Afghanistan. “I now do the driving. With a car, we can have a change of scene. We can take my son to the park.”

Having a donated vehicle, says Hannah Scully, IRC Community Engagement Coordinator, not only makes medical appointments easier, it can also reduce long bus rides or walks to work. It can expand employment opportunities to better paying jobs that require a vehicle. It can transport children and parents to school, community activities, and grocery shopping.

Charlotte Crystal and her husband David Mattern of Charlottesville recently donated their 2010 Hyundai Sonata to the IRC. The car had some 150,000 miles on it. The donation was easy to make, says Crystal, after getting it inspected and taken to the shop. “I wanted to be sure it was in perfect working order before giving it to the IRC.”

She made the donation after watching the news last year from Afghanistan with dismay. “Once the Taliban took over, what would happen to all the people who trusted us, who believed what we taught them about democracy and civil rights? The unlucky ones were murdered. The lucky ones fled and tens of thousands of Afghans sought refuge in the United States,” says Crystal.

Abdulbashir Hashamzai accepting a donated car on March 3, 2022.

“The challenge was huge – there was so much they needed. But what could I do? There was so much I couldn’t do, but I could offer my gently used car to the International Rescue Committee. The IRC could pass it on to an Afghan family being settled in Charlottesville. I could help a family that needed transportation for its new life here. I hoped that Mother Teresa was right: “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with love.” I hoped that my small contribution could make a difference in one family’s life.”

“Making a tax-deductible vehicle donation to the IRC is a critical way to help refugees become more self-sufficient in our rather vehicle-dependent community,” says Scully. “While most non-profits sell donated vehicles to auction houses or for parts and then nobly use that money for client services, the IRC puts your vehicle to immediate use by transferring title to a refugee family who really needs it.”

Those receiving donated cars must be in a financial position to manage car insurance and maintenance payments. Given the financial constraints of IRC clients, the vehicle needs to be in good running condition -- no serious dashboard warning lights, not in need of any costly repairs that affect safety or reliability, and passing VA state inspection within the past 30 days or so. Minivans are especially welcome.

The IRC has received 45 cars since 2017 and distributed them to refugee families. Households range in size from couples to families of 13. 

If you would like to donate your vehicle and believe that it meets the criteria, IRC will set up time for a test drive and completing the paperwork (i.e., your Bill of Sale, IRC’s donation acknowledgement, signing over the title, etc.). You will be on your way in less than an hour. The following January, IRC will mail you a form 1098-C for your tax filing.

For more information about the vehicle donation program or if you would like to donate a car: Contact [email protected]