By Matthew Wendler, case worker
For so many of us, this “pandemic year” has been full of adjustments and uncertainty—but for refugee families this once-in-a-century pandemic has also coincided with moving to a new country. In March 2020, the IRC profiled Mohammad, Nazifa and their four children in an article From Afghanistan to Maryland and we reached out again for an update to see how life has been since they arrived. Read on to see how the family has managed to make it through to the other side of 2020.
The Ashrafs arrived in Baltimore at the beginning of the COVID-19 shut-down, bringing with them a travel debt of $8,000—the cost of airfare for the entire family—and a series of challenges to overcome. They did not understand how to use public transportation or find jobs and struggled to access resources as everything had moved online. The two eldest boys had been out of school for a number of years so it wasn’t realistic to re-enroll in High School. This city-wide shut down meant that finding employment was delayed as the family waited an extraordinary amount of time to receive their social security cards, which demonstrate eligibility to work in the U.S. Even after Mohammed had finally received his long anticipated social security card and was offered a job, Nafiza tested positive for COVID-19 and the Maryland Department of Health instructed the entire family to self-quarantine.
As with all phases in life, this initial and very difficult period of time has passed, and the family now reports that they are doing well. Sharuffulah (aged 20) enrolled in IRC’s online Refugee Youth Mentoring Project where he could interact with others and practice English. Ashraf (aged 19) found a job in a warehouse but soon increased his wage through a job upgrade and now works in the hospitality industry. Both brothers are completing English language courses through Baltimore City Community College and plan to continue their education and earn their degrees. The youngest boys are attending middle and high school through hybrid learning. Even at 50 percent remote they feel fortunate to continue their school year after so many challenges.
Through hard work and savings, the family reports they have been able to pay off their $8,000 travel debt in full. The family will also be planning to get their COVID vaccines in the near future. Mohammad and Nazifa’s main focus now is to continue progressing and do whatever they can to support their children in continuing their education so they can have a bright future.
To read last year’s article, click here