In the midst of uncertainty in Afghanistan, where the Taliban’s resurgence has cast a shadow over the hopes and dreams of countless individuals, there are stories of resilience and hope. Among these stories is that of Khesraw, an Afghan refugee whose life took an unexpected turn when Afghanistan’s government was overthrown by the Taliban in 2021.
Khesraw and his family are from the city of Kabul. They had a normal life in Afghanistan – his three kids were doing well in school, his wife, Mitra, worked as a biology teacher, and Khesraw worked as a medical doctor.
All of that changed in 2021, when Khesraw had to make the tough decision to leave his country to secure a safer and brighter future for his children.
“Before Taliban, Mitra and I never thought one day that we will leave Afghanistan, becoming refugees. I had a lot of plans to serve the people of my home country,” said Khesraw.
Khesraw was in the middle of seeking approval through the Afghanistan government to open a rehabilitation center to help people experiencing paralysis. However, the disintegration of the Afghan government put a stop to Khesraw’s dreams; there was no one to process business licenses and visas or to provide other government services in Afghanistan.
Khesraw stayed in Afghanistan for a month and a half until he finally received the opportunity to go to a refugee camp in Abu Dhabi after receiving sponsorship to come to the United States. Khesraw and his family stayed in Abu Dhabi for a whole year. Making the best of their new situation, Khesraw volunteered to teach English to people in the refugee camp and Mitra volunteered as a seamstress.
Khesraw was sponsored by his previous supervisor to come to the United States; however, Khesraw thought Canada would be best for him and his family.
“I preferred Canada because it is multicultural and I see opportunities for my children’s future,” said Khesraw.
Khesraw and Mitra’s family dining out
“Before Taliban, Mitra and I never thought one day that we will leave Afghanistan, becoming refugees. I had a lot of plans to serve the people of my home country.”
“When they’ve lost almost everything they’ve built and they’ve been separated from their loved ones, it causes a lot of emotional trauma.”
When they first arrived, Khesraw and his family were housed in a temporary hotel for Afghan refugees where they were connected to Archway’s Resettlement Assistance Program (RAP) and their settlement worker Mary.
Through RAP, Archway welcomed 433 government-assisted Afghanistan refugees since April 2022 to August 2023, as well as 90 refugees from Syria, Sudan, Congo and the Central Republic of Africa.
RAP works with refugees in the initial weeks to meet their immediate needs around health care, life skills, banking, filling out essential paperwork and forms as well as connecting them to other settlement services and community resources.
After the refugees graduate from RAP, they are transferred to the Pathways to Integration Services department which assists thousands of refugees, immigrants, temporary foreign workers, permanent residents and international students each year.
As a settlement worker, Mary supports Khesraw’s family with their basic needs and also provides emotional support and connection.
“When they’ve lost almost everything they’ve built and they’ve been separated from their loved ones, it causes a lot of emotional trauma,” said Mary Ahmadi, Archway’s Afghan settlement worker.
Mary connected Khesraw and Mitra with Archway services like Language Instruction for Newcomers, the Archway Food Bank, and Career Paths for Skilled Immigrants. Archway’s Immigrant Youth program helped get their children ready for school and get them to and from afterschool programs.
“Archway Community Services helped and supported my family. We didn’t know anything about this new culture and new country when we first arrived,” said Khesraw.
Some of the biggest challenges Afghan newcomers experience are the language and communication barriers, transportation, and obtaining gainful employment. They also experience the difficulty of adapting from a male-dominated society.
Mary works hard to instill a transformative mindset among Afghan women, encouraging their active participation when they come to Canada. When working with groups of Afghan refugees being temporarily housed in a hotel, she would organize family events for them, making sure that the women understood that their presence and engagement are valued.
Khesraw’s son at his soccer championship
“Archway Community Services helped and supported my family. We didn’t know anything about this new culture and new country when we first arrived.”
Having been in Canada since September 2022, Khesraw envisions a future firmly rooted in Canada where he aspires to become certified to practice as a doctor. He recognizes the pressing need for dedicated healthcare professionals, having experienced first-hand the difficulty of finding a family doctor for his own loved ones.
“I can become a doctor here, not for myself, but I can help society too,” said Khesraw.
Mitra also hopes to develop her career in Canada and plans to become a teacher like she was in Afghanistan.
For now, Khesraw has joined Archway in the role of RAP Housing Liaison where he helps newcomer families find permanent housing. He loves working for the organization that has provided him with so much support and enjoys connecting with other newcomer families in Abbotsford. His ability to relate to the struggles of these families and support them in their native language makes him an invaluable asset to the Archway team.
Despite the hardships and uncertainties Khesraw and Mitra have faced, their unwavering resilience shines through. By embracing the opportunities Canada offers, Khesraw is determined to rebuild his life, pursue his dreams, and contribute to society.
“I am feeling safe and happy in Canada. I am strong.”
Khesraw and Mitra exploring BC