Welcome the Newcomer

Catholic Charities assists refugees and immigrants that are legally in the United States. Our Refugee Resettlement program supports refugees who flee their country of origin, often running from violence, war and persecution, to save their lives. They are granted refugee status by the United Nations due to a well-founded case of persecution and cleared for entrance to America by our Department of Homeland Security.

Our Immigration Legal Services team helps reunite those in the U.S. legally with minor children and spouses who remain in their country of origin. Many of those we assist are refugees — those granted refugee status by the United Nations and invited here by the U.S. Federal Government — to reunite with their spouses and minor children. We also help U.S. citizens and those with legal residency secure residency for their spouses and/or children.

Monday, 17 July 2023

Unaccompanied Minor Shares His Story of Resilience

Written by

As case manager Ruthanne Hopkins sits down to talk to Irshad, a young man in Catholic Charities Unaccompanied Minor Refugee program, she notices the words printed across his shirt. The words are “Resilience: Me.”

Irshad tells her that he received the shirt from the Dean of Watts College at Arizona State University, where he attends college. “Resilience is like a rubber band, you can stretch but you don’t break,” adds Irshad.

Irshad came to Phoenix, Ariz. as a 14-year-old unaccompanied minor. Unaccompanied minors are youth who arrive in the U.S. without a legal guardian and are placed into foster care.

Living Under the Terror of the Taliban

Irshad is the eldest of five siblings, born into a family in Afghanistan. He was his father’s assistant at their family grocery store in Helmand Province. Despite the Taliban’s warning to anyone who aided American soldiers or local police, Irshad’s family continued selling goods to soldiers near a military base.

When Irshad was around 11 years old, his father disappeared without a trace. Despite this heartbreak, Irshad continued to run the store.

Fleeing Into the Unknown

One day, the store was burned to the ground, and the Taliban came searching for Irshad. His mother decided he needed to flee the country. He was smuggled to India, then Malaysia, and finally to Indonesia by boat.

Irshad lived in an orphanage for six months in poor conditions. Irshad, who is Muslim, says his belief in God and the goodness of humankind is what kept him going.

He then spent three long years in a refugee shelter while waiting to come to the U.S. He was able to stay in touch with his mother, which was a comfort to him.

Starting a New Life with a Loving Family

In 2018, Irshad arrived in Phoenix and was placed into the Catholic Charities Unaccompanied Refugee Minors (URM) program. The program has placed hundreds of youth into loving foster homes while providing case management and resources.

Irshad is grateful to his foster parents, whom he calls Mom and Dad. “They have been there to show me how to eat healthy, [transport] me to soccer, [and teach me] how to have good relationships. They’ve taught me about how to finance a car, use credit cards responsibly, and invest,” says Irshad.

Moving Toward a Beautiful Future

In May, he met with a lawyer to apply for U.S. citizenship. Irshad has also recently completed his first year of college, studying Public Policy and Public Service.

Irshad hopes to bring change in government policy regarding refugees and immigration. He longs for the day when his mother and four siblings can come to the U.S. so that he can be a big brother, and his sister can finally attend school.

If you’d like to help unaccompanied minors like Irshad build a safe and successful life in the U.S., consider becoming a foster parent, donating online or donating needed items through our Amazon Charity List.

Read 668 times
Ruthanne Hopkins

Ruthanne Hopkins has worked with Catholic Charities' Unaccompanied Minor Foster Care program for two years. She has lived overseas and enjoys the richness of different cultures. She has 20 years of experience working with refugees.


Follow Us

To learn more about how we are helping...