As a nonprofit organization, we talk a lot about donations and giving back here at World Relief Memphis. While part of how WRM functions is through government and local grants, we could not do what we do without people like you. People who are on the path, investing in the community to see mutual transformation happen in this city.
Former client and friend, Reza Abdoli, spoke with us this summer about his lifechanging experience with World Relief Memphis and why he decided to give back.
In need of help
On December 9th, 2012, I arrived in Atlanta, Georgia, as an asylee. I left my home in Afghanistan because of my country’s increasing instability, which restricted my ability to further my education.
My original intention when coming to the U.S. was to pursue a master’s degree in computer science. But I was influenced by people I knew from home to change my career to medical or dental school. There was one complication, however. They immigrated a few years prior, were already American citizens and did not explain the roadblocks I had in front of me as an asylee if I changed my career path.
Nevertheless, I moved to Memphis and began trying to pursue dentistry. Soon I discovered that it was impossible to participate in dental school without permanent resident status. I was at my lowest point of life, unable to get a good job and depressed.
Just a student paying back my loans without a path forward. I was driving for Uber and working other low-paying jobs, trying to make some money just to survive. Never had I been like that before, and it was scary. I needed help.
Finally, I got my USCIS approval for asylum in 2019, and they told me about some organizations that help asylees like me. That’s when I first found out about World Relief.
Initially, I had no idea what World Relief was — they were just another faceless organization. But when I first walked into the Memphis office, that changed.
A new family
That first day, there was a young lady at the door to greet me. She said, “Hey, how are you? Welcome!” I was like, she already knows me? Was she expecting me? They were so excited to meet me. It was comforting.
Before World Relief, I had so many problems traveling in the U.S. People would say hurtful words about me. It made me feel like, “this is not my place, and I have to leave here.” That feeling was only made worse by my struggles with school and money.
But my World Relief case worker, Basuze, always listened to me without judgment. He and the rest of the team acted like I was a family member. I kept coming back to the office to hang out with everyone because I felt loved.
World Relief was like a chain holding me together. I was struggling so deeply I was even planning to break up with my girlfriend because I had no money and knew I could not support us. World Relief kept my life together, and I still have my now-fiancé in my life.
World Relief pushed me to continue my education, and I returned to my passion for computers. I found the cheapest online program and got my master’s in computer science. I knew when I first came to the U.S. that I could make a living if I got a degree, but I just needed some help to get there.
Whether it was government paperwork, monetary assistance or encouragement, World Relief guided me. Through this guidance, I was finally able to get a good job.
A few months ago, I bumped into Basuze at the Memphis airport. He was there welcoming someone new who was arriving in the U.S. That was an emotional moment for me. It helped me realize how far I’d come and how much I wanted to give back.
Paying it forward
After my encounter with Basuze at the airport, I told myself that I would give a portion of my salary every month to World Relief. And every time I got a raise or promotion, I would increase my giving. And that’s what I’m doing. I’m not making millions, but I can now live without fearing the next day. And I want to do my small part to make that possible for the next person.
I give to World Relief because I’ve experienced first-hand that they use their funds wisely. Whether helping with moving, providing furniture, offering career guidance or helping financially, World Relief is putting its funds towards the good of others. Whatever is asked of them by the people they served, they step up.
I still have the check receipts of what World Relief gave to me. I still have them! That’s how much they mean to me. World Relief gave me the opportunity and the courage to pursue what I dreamt about, and it is important to me that I can be a part of making this possible for others.
For me, giving back is both financial and relational. Because of my job, I’m now living in Los Angeles. Since moving here, I’ve made an effort on my own to connect with other Afghan families in my community.
When visiting with them, I always encourage the younger people to get a degree, even if it’s the cheapest one available. I didn’t spend much on my master’s degree. It was less expensive than the classes I took in dental school, which I’ve never used. But if you get a degree and find a job to support yourself, you can live the dream! It is possible here.
I feel blessed to be able to share my story with my Afghan community and people like you. I hope that my story will encourage and help others to pursue their goals.
My hope is that my story also urges people to be kinder to immigrants. They have had enough hardship in their life. When someone comes to World Relief, they are there because they seek your help. There may be language barriers and cultural differences. That’s okay. Take time to understand them. They need that. If they were in a good place in their life, they would not have come to World Relief. When someone comes to us for help, the least we can do is be more patient, be a good listener and spend more time with them.
We’re so grateful to Reza for sharing his story with us. Through generous giving such as Reza’s, our office can continue cultivating a welcoming and supportive community for refugees, asylees, and other vulnerable immigrants from across the globe. If you feel called give back and forge The Path to lasting change, follow this link for more info on how to become a Pathmaker today.
Nathan Spencer (pictured above) is a lifelong Memphian passionate about this city and its people. Through his professional internships at Choose901 and World Relief Memphis, he has worked to cultivate a connected community and serve the needs of both new arrivals to Memphis and those multi-generational residents. He also recently graduated with his M.A. in Journalism and Strategic Media.
Reza Abdoli is a former client and current donor of World Relief Memphis. While in Memphis he also served as a volunteer in various capacities at the WRM office. Since leaving Memphis, he has made a point to connect with his Afghan neighbors and advocate and mentor immigrants in his new community. He also holds a Masters degree in Computer Science and resides in Los Angeles California.