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Ahmad: Working to Build a Just and Welcoming Community

August 15, 2021 is a day that will forever live in Ahmad’s memory.

He was working as personal security for the Chief of Staff of the Afghan National Army. He loved his country and was proud to serve in the army, as his father had served before him.

That day, work was busy, but routine — until someone rang the office alarm. People started running, and Ahmad was told to leave everything behind. The Taliban was coming.

At first, Ahmad couldn’t believe what was happening. “It’s not possible to take the capital of Afghanistan that easily,” he thought. But when he saw the Minister of Defense escaping by helicopter, the unimaginable became undeniable.

The next morning, Ahmad learned the Taliban was looking for anyone involved with the military or police, either arresting or killing them. He had no choice but to flee, leaving his family behind.

When he arrived in the U.S., Ahmad remembers feeling alone. “It’s hard to be alone,” he said, “separated from family.” But it wasn’t long before someone welcomed him — the staff of World Relief Fox Valley.

They quickly helped him begin searching for a job — one of the first steps towards rebuilding his life in his new community.

With a degree in political science and experience working in the nonprofit and government sectors, he hoped to find an office job where he could help others. However, as is the case with many refugees and immigrants establishing livelihoods in the U.S., options were limited.

Soon, an offer came his way to work in manufacturing at a local cheese company, and he took it. While Ahmad felt disappointed that he didn’t get the type of job he wanted, he was willing to do whatever it took to establish himself and support his family still stuck in Afghanistan.

Then, just a few days before his work orientation, he got a call from Tami McLaughlin, World Relief Fox Valley’s Office Director. The staff at World Relief had noticed Ahmad’s desire and ability to help others. They also recognized how important it is for staff to understand and represent the populations they serve and were eager to have someone like Ahmad working alongside them to welcome more Afghans. Tami was offering him a job as a caseworker.

Ahmad was thrilled and quickly accepted.

In the midst of a heartbreaking year, working at World Relief has become a glimmer of hope. Not only is Ahmad able to send support to his family members in Afghanistan, he’s also helping other Afghans who, like him, have sought safety in the U.S.

“Being a part of the World Relief mission is a way I can help my people… Whatever they need, I feel like I am here for them,” he said.

Now, Ahmad is dreaming about the future. Inspired by his uncle who worked as a public prosecutor back in Afghanistan, he hopes to get a master’s degree and eventually become a lawyer.

Even more, he hopes that one day soon his family will be able to join him in the U.S. He can already envision their future together, owning their own home and giving back to the local community that welcomed him.

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