Afghan refugee and family work to make a new life with help of East Bay group
Communities In the East Bay, are seeing a third influx of Afghan refugees, nearly two years after the United States military withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Robin Mencher, the CEO of Jewish Community and Family Services - East Bay (JFCS East Bay) says the group is assisting on average, around 50 refugees a week.
"When the United States military withdrew from Afghanistan after a couple of decades, the government collapsed and caused everyone who had been connected to work with the U.S. government and those in support of the government to feel tremendous instability in their lives - and they faced persecution," Mencher said. "Everyone who comes here is coming here to start life anew because they have to."
JFCS East Bay helps refugees with resettlement in the East Bay.
"First we focus on the basic needs - safety, security, literally food, clothing, and shelter - then we move into what we call extended case management where we really make sure that we're partnering with our clients to set them up for success in the long term," Mencher said. "Some folks come and are highly educated, highly skilled, and ready to work. Others have a much bigger adjustment."
According to Homayoon Ghanizada, the lead case manager at JFCS East Bay, the refugees who arrive here are generally eager to get working and self-sufficient.
"When we see them first, they're not in good shape. But eventually after some time, we see that they own a house, they have a job, they go to school," he said. "They all want to just have a normal and peaceful life."
The first wave of Afghan refugees back in 2021 included Sayed Muhibullah Hashmi and his family, who now live in Contra Costa County.
"They provided me with resettlement support, they provided me with insurance, doctors, they connected me with different employers," Hashmi said. "I did not expect anything, and anything that was coming, I was really grateful for that."
They left Afghanistan when the Taliban began to take over.
"I didn't want to leave. But I also didn't expect that the Republic would have collapsed," he said. "Afghanistan is going under a humanitarian crisis."
Even with a master's degree, knowledge of English and basic customs and norms, Hashmi says assimilating can be a challenging process for refugees.
"Initially, there will be a lot of challenges. With the job, with language, with the communities," he said.
And grieving the reality of leaving home is a difficult process, too.
"It's not easy. It's really difficult," he said. "You have left family members there, you have left memories there. It's not easy. It'll take time."
In an ideal world, Hashmi wouldn't have had to leave Afghanistan. However, he is incredibly grateful for the new life he and his family have in the Bay Area.
"In one-and-half year, this country has given me a lot of things," he said. "I hope I can pay back and can make a difference, and I can support other people who arrive."
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