The war in Afghanistan began in March, with rapid invasions of several provinces, including an attack on the Herat province. Throughout June and July, the Taliban continued their advance, capturing most of the districts in Herat. This posed a significant threat to individuals like me who were working in women’s empowerment. Fearing for my safety, I decided to apply for the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) and promptly informed my supervisor on June 9, 2021, who provided a strong recommendation. As the Taliban continued to gain control over provinces, the city of Herat became engulfed in the flames of war in August 2021, with the Taliban fighting against government forces. The traumatic echoes of conflict reverberated through the streets, shattering the peacefulness of our lives. Like countless others, I found myself caught up in the chaos, compelled to abandon the safety of my home.
I will never forget that heart-wrenching moment as I closed the door behind me, leaving behind the memories and the warmth that once filled those familiar walls. Tears welled up in my eyes, mirroring the anguish etched upon the face of my beloved father. His silent tears, like fragile droplets of sorrow, bore witness to the pain that permeated our souls.
With heavy hearts, we embarked on a treacherous journey, seeking refuge in the uncertain embrace of Kabul. The road ahead was paved with fear and uncertainty, our footsteps weighed down by the burden of loss and displacement. The desolation of war had cast its suffocating shadow over our lives, robbing us of our sense of security and plunging us into the depths of despair.
But the trials we faced were far from over. In the wake of our arrival in Kabul, the tide of adversity continued to surge, swallowing the city in its relentless grip. The fall of Kabul became a somber symphony of despair, echoing through the streets and resonating within the hearts of every Afghan soul. The weight of collective sorrow bore down upon us, threatening to extinguish the flickering embers of hope that remained.
In those dark hours, I could no longer suppress the torrent of emotions that surged within me. The anguish, the grief, and the profound sense of loss welled up, pouring forth as tears cascading down my cheeks. Each teardrop held within it the anguish of a nation, the unspoken cries of a people trapped in the vicious cycle of conflict and suffering.
Afghanistan, my homeland, had once again become a theater of darkness, a stage upon which the dreams and aspirations of its people were crushed. The weight of the past intertwined with the uncertainty of the present, creating a suffocating atmosphere that threatened to snuff out the flame of resilience that burned within us.
Yet, even amidst the depths of despair, a flicker of resilience persists. It is the indomitable spirit of the Afghan people, the unwavering determination to rise above the ashes of destruction, that illuminates our path forward. We carry within us the legacy of a nation that has endured the test of time, a testament to our unwavering strength and unyielding resolve.
So, as the tears continue to flow and the wounds of war remain raw, I find solace in the collective heartbeat of my people. We share a bond forged in adversity, a shared history that transcends borders and ideologies. Together, we stand as a testament to the resilience of the human spirit, a beacon of hope amidst the darkest of times.
And as I recount the painful chapters that have unfolded, I pledge to honor the sacrifices of those who have come before me. Their tears, their courage, and their unwavering love for our homeland serve as a constant reminder of the enduring spirit that resides within us. I shall carry their legacy, their hopes, and their dreams, as I navigate the uncertain path that lies ahead, fueled by the flickering flame of resilience that burns within my heart.
In the aftermath of the fall of Kabul, our family, comprised of the Sultanzada Family, Jawed Haidari, Aziz Hearavi, and various other families, embarked upon three arduous endeavors to gain access to the airport. However, the prevailing circumstances, characterized by an overwhelming throng of individuals, rendered us confined to the periphery of the airport grounds, impeding our proximity to the gates. A multitude of people, driven by the urgent need for refuge, converged in an impassable amalgamation. The resultant congestion reached such levels that I, at a certain point, was gripped by the harrowing prospect of losing my infant, nestled upon my lap within the tumultuous milieu.
This abhorrent tableau was one that defied the bounds of human endurance. We bore witness to the heart-wrenching spectacle of fellow beings desperately yearning for sanctuary, beseeching assistance from any authority figure within reach. Simultaneously, we were subjected to suffocating anguish and apprehension of potential separation from our cherished kin. Nights of fitful repose were endured in the shadowed recesses behind the airport gates, where our hopes of a favorable denouement clung precariously. Our well-intentioned compatriots residing abroad engaged in relentless endeavors to facilitate our escape, yet, lamentably, their exertions proved futile. It was at this juncture that we resolved, with heavy hearts, to resist further attempts at the airport. Instead, we embarked upon an exploration of alternative recourse, including the pursuit of visas to Pakistan.
Alas, the issuance of Pakistan visas was a privilege monopolized by a handful of travel agencies in the marketplace, who capitalized on the prevailing crisis by levying exorbitant fees. Nevertheless, our options were severely limited, and hence, we were left with no recourse but to pursue this route in our fervent quest to extricate ourselves from the perils that plagued Afghanistan. However, destiny had one crueler blow in store for us. In the ensuing days, a cataclysmic explosion ravaged the vicinity adjacent to the airport gate, exacting a toll of over one hundred lives and leaving several others grievously wounded. The ensuing sorrow and grief that enveloped us defied articulation. This calamity served as a poignant reminder of the immense perils and pervasive uncertainty that marred our journey to secure safety and solace for our families.
Eventually, we managed to acquire our visas, yet the challenges persisted as we crossed the Pakistan border. Some families were able to navigate the border with the assistance of well-connected individuals. However, my family and I made the decision to explore alternative means of transportation, opting to seek air or land options. Each individual ticket came at a steep price of $1,200.00, adding to the financial strain we were already facing. Ultimately, only Jawed Haidari’s family and mine chose to embark on the journey to Pakistan, while Jamshid Jan opted to remain behind.
Our flight was scheduled for October 27, 2023, and with a mixture of relief and trepidation, we finally arrived in Pakistan. However, our relief was short-lived as we encountered an entirely new set of challenges. The language barrier proved to be a significant hurdle, making communication and assimilation difficult. Finding suitable housing was another struggle, and we faced a lack of essential resources and financial stability. The weight of these burdens made it incredibly challenging to navigate our new reality.
Furthermore, our future remained uncertain as our case had yet to reach its final stage. Thankfully, Jawed Haidari had managed to secure a place on the evacuation list and was called to Doha in November. Meanwhile, the rest of us remained in Pakistan, unsure of what lay ahead. Mr. Aziz, along with the Naqib Jan family, still found themselves in Pakistan, grappling with an unclear future.
The three months we spent in Pakistan were undeniably the most difficult and bitter period of our lives. However, fortune smiled upon us as our friends, particularly my supervisor, provided invaluable financial assistance during this trying time. Their support, coupled with the stroke of luck that secured our place on an evacuation flight to Doha, proved to be a lifeline amidst the uncertainty and hardship we faced. We finally bid farewell to Pakistan on January 29, 2022, embarking on a new chapter of our journey, while Mr. Aziz and the Naqib family remained behind, awaiting a resolution to their own uncertain fate.
When we arrived in Doha at the military base, we initially thought that everything would be managed quickly. However, staying in the Conix was another problem, especially with children. Sometimes the air conditioner was set to a very low temperature, and we would freeze, while at other times it was too warm. On top of that, the place was overcrowded, and the facilities were insufficient.
Finally, on 04/05/2022, we successfully obtained our visas and immigrated to the United States through the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program. We were grateful to have the support and accommodation of my wife’s sister, who graciously welcomed us into her home. Initially, we felt a sense of relief, believing that the challenges of our journey were coming to an end. However, we soon realized that the immigration process was just the beginning of a new set of hurdles.
Adjusting to life in a new country was more challenging than we anticipated. We quickly learned that the immigration process is not easy and can take years to fully establish oneself. We were unprepared for the high cost of living in the United States, which added an additional layer of complexity to our situation. Finding a suitable house became another significant hurdle we had to overcome, as the rental market proved competitive and often required a solid financial background.
Additionally, I encountered difficulties in job hunting. My careers and qualifications from Afghanistan held little value in the U.S., which made it challenging to secure suitable employment. I had to navigate unfamiliar job markets, rewrite our resumes, and sometimes pursue entirely different career paths. It was a humbling experience to realize that our previous professional achievements did not necessarily translate directly to opportunities in our new home.
The public benefits we received fell short of meeting all our needs, leaving us with the realization that relying solely on them was not sustainable. Taking my sister-in-law’s husband’s advice to heart, I recognized the urgency of finding employment to ensure our financial stability. Despite lacking prior experience in the field, I embarked on a job search and was fortunate to secure a position as a mechanical student at a local shop.
Those initial two months at the mechanical shop were transformative for me. I was thrust into a hands-on learning environment, where I quickly realized the extent of my knowledge gaps. Changing a vehicle’s tire, a task I had never previously undertaken due to having a dedicated driver, became one of the first challenges I confronted. With guidance from experienced colleagues and a willingness to learn, I gradually acquired the necessary skills.
Beyond tire changes, I delved into more intricate automotive tasks. The shop provided me with the opportunity to learn how to change oil, replace brakes, and tackle other engine-related repairs. While the learning curve was steep, I embraced the challenges and took pride in acquiring practical skills that would prove valuable both professionally and personally.
Working in the mechanical shop opened my eyes to the intricacies of automotive maintenance and repair. I gained an appreciation for the hard work and technical expertise required to keep vehicles running smoothly. The experience not only expanded my knowledge base but also instilled a sense of self-reliance and resilience within me.
As I honed my mechanical skills, I also developed a deeper understanding of the importance of perseverance and adaptability in the face of new challenges. This transformative period served as a reminder that stepping out of my comfort zone and embracing unfamiliar territories can lead to personal growth and expanded horizons.
Overall, my time as a mechanical student at the shop proved to be a valuable and eye-opening experience. It equipped me with practical skills, instilled a strong work ethic, and reinforced the notion that sometimes, the most transformative experiences arise from stepping into the unknown and embracing new opportunities.
Despite the best efforts of the Jewish Family assisting us, we encountered challenges in finding a suitable house to rent. The search proved to be more difficult than we anticipated, and we struggled to find a co-signer who could vouch for our rental application. Undeterred, we persisted in our efforts for nearly two months, investing significant time and energy into the search.
Finally, we stumbled upon a property that was willing to consider our application, despite our lack of credit history and current employment status. It was a relief to find a place that was open to offering us an apartment, given the obstacles we had faced. However, our relief was dampened by the exorbitant price they quoted for the monthly rent. The amount, $2,525.00, was significantly higher than what we had initially budgeted for housing expenses.
On top of the steep rent, we had to allocate an additional $220 for utilities each month. This included expenses such as electricity, water, and other necessary services. Moreover, our bills for PGE&N fluctuated, occasionally reaching around $230 in some months. These added costs strained our budget and placed further financial pressure on us.
While we were grateful to have found a place to live, the high expenses associated with it put a strain on our finances. We had to carefully manage our resources and make sacrifices in other areas to ensure we could meet our housing and utility obligations.
Nevertheless, we remained determined to make this new living arrangement work. We explored ways to optimize our budget and minimize expenses wherever possible. It was a challenging adjustment, but we were willing to adapt and do what it took to create a stable living environment for ourselves and our family.
Despite the financial burdens, we were grateful for the opportunity to have a place to call home in our new country. We understood that finding affordable housing can be a challenge, especially for newcomers with limited credit history and employment. We were determined to persevere and gradually improve our financial situation over time.
To compound the difficulties we were facing, the support provided by the Jewish Family was limited to very basic supplies. This further exacerbated our financial strain, as we had to shoulder the burden of purchasing essential items on our own. The added expenses, coupled with the high cost of living, made it increasingly challenging to make ends meet.
In an attempt to improve our situation, I decided to purchase a car. Recognizing the need for additional income, I took on a job as a food delivery driver. The nature of this work was demanding and often required late-night shifts, which added a layer of physical and mental fatigue to my already challenging circumstances. The job itself was not easy, as it involved navigating through traffic, delivering orders promptly, and managing customer expectations.
While the food delivery job came with its own frustrations, such as dealing with difficult customers or facing unfavorable weather conditions, I persevered. I understood that every effort I put into this job was a step towards supporting my family and creating a more stable financial foundation. The work was physically demanding, and the long hours could be mentally draining. However, I remained determined to make the most of the opportunity and provide for my loved ones.
Though the job may have been frustrating at times, it also presented me with valuable experiences and lessons. I learned to navigate unfamiliar neighborhoods, adapt to various delivery platforms, and hone my time management skills. These experiences, challenging as they were, helped me develop resilience and a strong work ethic.
It’s important to acknowledge that juggling the demands of a demanding job, financial constraints, and the emotional toll of being in a new country can be overwhelming. However, through perseverance and the desire to create a better future, I remained committed to overcoming these challenges and building a stable and fulfilling life for myself and my family.
In a nutshell, my journey with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) began on July 05, 2022, when I took on my first assignment as a case head to assist other caseworkers with their assigned cases. This initial three-month period went smoothly, and I successfully fulfilled my responsibilities. Then, on September 01, 2022, I was promoted to the position of caseworker, which I found to be a truly rewarding job.
Working with IRC has been a labor of love for me because I could help refugees and individuals who come to the United States with high expectations. However, it’s important to note that the U.S. is not a socialist country, and hard work is required to earn a living here. Despite the challenges, I find immense fulfillment in my role.
At IRC, I discovered a professional and stimulating environment where my colleagues are highly educated and qualified. Teamwork is greatly valued, and the atmosphere is one of camaraderie and honesty. Initially, I had the privilege of working under the supervision of Lila Samady, a knowledgeable and supportive individual. Her expertise and guidance were invaluable. Later on, there was a change in my line supervisor, and Amina Adel stepped into the role. From the moment she took the lead, it became evident that Amina was not only friendly and approachable but also possessed a profound understanding of the intricacies of the resettlement structure. Her exceptional leadership skills allowed her to excel in her position and make a significant impact on our team.
Amina’s friendly demeanor created an environment where everyone felt comfortable approaching her with questions or concerns. She actively listened to our feedback, valued our opinions, and ensured that each team member felt heard and supported. Her approachability fostered a sense of trust and open communication within the team, which greatly contributed to our overall productivity and job satisfaction.
Beyond her friendly nature, Amina’s in-depth knowledge of the resettlement structure was truly impressive. She demonstrated a comprehensive understanding of the complexities involved in assisting refugees and immigrants in their transition to a new country. Her expertise allowed her to guide us effectively through various challenges, providing valuable insights and solutions.
What truly set Amina apart was her exceptional leadership skills. She had a remarkable ability to motivate and inspire the team, instilling a sense of purpose and passion in our work. Amina led by example, consistently demonstrating a strong work ethic and a commitment to excellence. Her guidance and support empowered us to reach our full potential and to work collaboratively towards achieving our goals.
Under Amina’s leadership, our team thrived. She fostered an environment of teamwork, where all members’ contributions were acknowledged and valued. She recognized our individual strengths and effectively delegated tasks to maximize efficiency and productivity. Amina’s clear vision and strategic planning played a vital role in driving our team’s success.
Working under Amina’s leadership was not only professionally fulfilling but also personally rewarding. Her guidance and mentorship inspired me to continually learn and grow in my role. She created an environment that encouraged personal development and provided opportunities for us to expand our skills and knowledge.
In addition to the remarkable individuals within our team, I have been fortunate to work under the exceptional support and guidance of IRC Director, Jordane Tofighi. Jordane has been a true source of inspiration throughout my journey with the organization. Her wealth of knowledge, passion for the cause, and unwavering commitment to helping others have made a lasting impact on me and the entire team.
Jordan’s impressive educational background has equipped her with a deep understanding of the challenges faced by refugees and newcomers. Her expertise in the field, combined with her compassionate nature, allows her to provide valuable insights and strategic direction to guide our work. She continually seeks innovative solutions and encourages us to think outside the box, pushing boundaries to make a tangible difference in the lives of those we serve.
What sets Jordan apart is her exceptional leadership skills. She leads by example, exhibiting a strong work ethic, integrity, and a genuine care for the well-being of our team and the individuals we assist. Jordan’s ability to inspire and motivate us to go above and beyond our responsibilities is truly commendable. Under her guidance, we feel supported, empowered, and encouraged to reach new heights in our work.
Furthermore, Jordan’s dedication to the cause is unwavering. She consistently demonstrates a deep commitment to creating positive change in the lives of refugees and newcomers. Her vision and strategic planning have played a vital role in the success and growth of our organization. Through her guidance, she has fostered an environment where the team feels united, driven, and focused on achieving our shared goals.
Working with IRC under Jordan’s leadership has been a transformative experience for me. It has allowed me to discover my true purpose and passion in helping others and making a meaningful impact on the lives of refugees and newcomers in the United States. Jordan’s mentorship and support have provided me with the tools and encouragement needed to grow both personally and professionally.
I would like to highlight the exceptional camaraderie and cooperation that exists within our office. Two individuals, Sydney polish and Mariam White, deserve special recognition for their unwavering dedication, loyalty, and kindness towards everyone. They embody the true spirit of teamwork and consistently go above and beyond to ensure the office functions smoothly. Their genuine love for the work and their colleagues is evident in their tireless efforts and positive attitude.
The overall work environment in our office is truly remarkable and praiseworthy. It exudes a sense of warmth and excellence, fostering a strong sense of belonging and camaraderie among the team. The atmosphere is filled with respect, collaboration, and support, making it a pleasure to come to work each day.
While financial stability is undoubtedly important, the significance of working in this office goes beyond monetary considerations for me. The sense of fulfillment and satisfaction that comes from being a part of this cohesive and harmonious team is invaluable. The shared commitment to a common goal and the genuine care for one another create an environment that transcends the typical workplace dynamics.
I am grateful to be part of such a positive and nurturing work environment, where the emphasis is not solely on financial gain but also on personal growth, mutual support, and the collective success of the team. It is a privilege to work alongside colleagues who share the same values and strive to create a workplace that is both productive and emotionally fulfilling.
In this office, I have found more than just a job. I have found a community of like-minded individuals who inspire and motivate me to give my best every day. Together, we create an environment where work is not merely a means to an end but a source of personal fulfillment and professional growth.