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From Afghanistan to Atlanta: rebuilding a life

After a tumultuous year of delays and uncertainty, Ali and his young family finally arrived in Atlanta in June 2018 through the refugee resettlement program, more than five years after they first fled their home in Afghanistan. Changes to federal immigration policies meant that Ali and his family were forced to wait an extra year before they could travel to safety. During this time, he reassured his young sons, aged 7 and 3, that they would soon be able to go to school and ride the big yellow buses that they saw in American cartoons, to keep their spirits alive. 

Ali with IRC resettlement caseworker, Dede Shimiyimana.

Photo: IRC Atlanta

IRC resettlement caseworker, Dede Shimiyimana, was the first point of contact for the family when they arrived in the U.S., ensuring Ali’s oldest son was enrolled in the 2nd grade as soon as possible, and providing support with their apartment, applications and connecting to medical providers. Throughout the resettlement period, Ali maintained his positivity and can-do attitude, traits he credits to his mother. “My dad passed away when I was 15. So, my mom became both my mom and dad,” he shared. “Seeing her be like a man outside the house making the money and then being like a woman inside the house cooking, cleaning, and taking care of me and my siblings, it made me think that if she can do it all, then I can do anything I set my mind to.” 

With fluent English and incredible drive, Ali was quickly ready to find employment and regain self-sufficiency. Back in Afghanistan, he owned a small, general construction company selling plumbing material and was keen to forge a similar career in his new home. IRC employment specialist, Anthony Farjallah, invited a retired plumber to help Ali prepare his resume and cover letter, and the three of them worked together to help Ali secure a position with John Payne Company as a Plumbing Associate. He’s been in the role for just over two months and is thoroughly enjoying the work. “I want to set an example for my children. I want them to see me and learn from me. I want them to have a skill and something they’re good at,” he shared. “In America, I can do anything I want. There are no barriers. If you have the motivation and courage, then you can do anything.”  

The family recently purchased their first car and both Ali and his wife, Aqila, hope to obtain their GEDs in the near future. They also hope to one day buy a house and get a family dog to complete their own American dream. 

To learn more about the work of the IRC in Atlanta and for information on how you can get involved with the IRC as a donor or volunteer, please contact Development Manager, Kalie Lasiter, at Kalie.Lasiter [at] Rescue.org or 678-636-8941.

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