“I could not believe our family had been chosen to come to the United States,” Karim said, remembering the moment that his life changed forever — for the better, after entering the Catholic Charities Refugee Resettlement program. He and his wife, Rahima, along with their six children were living in a dangerous place: Afghanistan. Rahima worked as a housekeeper, cleaning offices for American government officials in Afghanistan. Her job created tension within her community for her association with the United States government, and she knew it was time for her family to find a safe place to live.
The family applied for a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV), which is a specific type of visa reserved only for those individuals who have assisted the United States in their efforts during the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. After a two-year period with multiple, intensive interviews, screenings and background checks, the family was finally approved to travel to the United States. Rahima and Karim and their family were 8 of only 50 people that were selected to receive this visa in 2017, against enormous odds.
Sadly, multiple members of the family were born with disabilities, which caused even more tension in Afghanistan, where the family was shunned. Karim grew up with varying degrees of deafness in both ears and two of his sons were born blind. In Afghanistan people with disabilities are not allowed the same opportunities as those born without them.
Once the family arrived in the United States, they were able to receive the medical treatment and assistance they had needed for many years. Karim was seen by a hearing specialist for the first time who advised him that his hearing would improve with hearing aids. But each hearing aid would cost $1,000, an amount the family could not afford to pay while they were still settling in the United States. The specialist suggested he apply for the Starkey Hearing Foundation who could help relieve some of the cost of these hearing aids. The team at Catholic Charities was eager and ready to help the family. With their assistance, Karim was fitted for his hearing aids. For the first time in his life, Karim could hear his family clearly.
In addition to Karim’s hearing difficulties, two of their sons were born blind and as such, had been denied education by schools in Afghanistan. Since moving to the United States, both of the boys have been able to enroll in school and Amanullah has even found other kids who want to play with him on the playground, such a positive and meaningful improvement for the family! With the assistance of Catholic Charities Refugee Services Job Developer Maureen Keelin both of the brothers were able to find programs to help them achieve their academic goals as well as become self-sufficient in society by learning Braille.
The family is grateful for all of the assistance they have received from the team at Catholic Charities. But Jesus Gonzales, a Senior Program Supervisor, says “We should be the ones giving our thanks. This family has shown us the potential everyone has inside of them, and it brings joy to our hearts to see them achieve their aspirations.”
Today, Rahima attends English classes four days a week before she goes to work at a commercial laundry facility. She never learned how to read and write in her own native language, Persian, but now she is learning how to read, write and speak English. Karim is working full-time at the same laundry facility and Gulshan, the oldest daughter hopes to graduate high school so she can go to college to become a computer scientist. Khadija, the younger of the daughters, hopes to become a lawyer so she can one day become a judge. Reshad and Murtaza are both in school with bright futures ahead of them.
From being outcasts to starting a brand new life full of promise … this family, with assistance from Catholic Charities Refugee Services, is on track to live the American dream.