Every year on June 20th, the world celebrates World Refugee Day to honor people forced to flee conflict and disaster. This June, the IRC honors refugee changemakers, highlighting the remarkable – and everyday – ways that refugees influence art, food, ideas, policy and culture.
The IRC in Silver Spring spoke with Parwana, an Afghan refugee and changemaker who shares her culture with others through her catering business. After the collapse of the Afghan government in August 2021, Parwana fled to the United States with her husband and three children.
Parwana, like many refugees, knew that coming to the U.S. would feel like starting from scratch, but she was determined:
My goals started small, focused on learning enough English so I could make doctor’s appointments for my kids. - Parwana
The IRC in Silver Spring enrolled Parwana in English classes and within a few months, Parwana could make doctor’s appointments and have basic conversations in English. She felt empowered to dream bigger and decided to open her own business.
Parwana speaks passionately about how food brings people together. She is an excellent home cook and her friends frequently encourage her to open a restaurant. Parwana realized she could combine her passion of food and community while providing for her family. With newfound confidence in her English skills, she decided to work toward opening her own restaurant. The IRC in Silver Spring referred Parwana to Emma’s Torch, a culinary apprenticeship program which offered Parwana the training she needed to improve her culinary abilities and work in a professional kitchen. Additionally, Parwana participated in a food truck training program with Let’s Chow, a nonprofit that provides culinary education for veterans, given her husband’s military service.
This year, Parwana launched her catering company, Ruby’s Fine Afghan Food, which offers Afghan, Persian, and Pakistani catering. Through catering, Parwana is able to grow her network in the hopes of opening her own food truck later this summer.
When you start anything new, it’s not easy. But I remember my family in Afghanistan and I want to be strong for them. I remind myself that I’m capable and strong. - Parwana