In late July, I had the privilege to join a team in the field helping resettle Afghan refugees in San Diego. While there I not only got to serve, I also got to witness all the amazing work, coordination, collaboration, and compassion that has been taking place.
A phenomenal hard-working team of five Greyshirts was on the ground working for eight operational days. During that short time, they supported five local resettlement agencies to help move 52 families—210 individuals—into new homes. This was a joint effort where Team Rubicon helped with the planning and execution along with a few different federal, state, and local agencies.
While we were working, moving items, driving box trucks, we had the opportunity to meet some of the families at their new homes and talk with them. We got to learn about their dreams, journeys, aspirations, and the challenges they continue to face.
One individual is an up-and-coming artist who showed us some of his canvases and, let me say, they were breathtaking.
Another family even invited some team members in for Afghan tea, which I’ve been told is like milk chai tea and 100 times better than one you will find or try at any coffee or tea shop.
On our second day, we got to see a family jumping for joy in the lobby of their new home: both of their daughters had just received full ride college scholarships and were approved for an apartment to live in on the east coast, which would mean their parents could come visit them as well.
There has been success all around: A lot of the individuals we have been serving this past year have landed jobs at Amazon and have been able to save up enough money for a loan to purchase a car, and can now get their family to appointments, school, and to visit other family members in the community.
On our final day of this quick collaboration we all went around to express our gratitude for everyone’s hard work, talk about highlights, and share the most memorable moment we’d had. One of the translators, an Afghan female, expressed her extreme thanks and gratitude. She told us about a group of single Afghan females in their early 20’s who we had moved a year ago, then she told us that they all now have jobs and are going to college to get an amazing education.
That reflection the translator shared stuck with me. It will continue to stick with me as I help continue with this mission, future ones, and as I go through life. It was beyond tragic that these guests were forced to evacuate their home country a year ago. They won’t be able to see their home landscape, the sun setting in the Afghanistan landscape, go to their favorite local bazaar, or see the Hindu Kush Mountain range again. Yet if those young women had stayed, or if they had not been able to get out of Afghanistan, they never would have been able to get an education or had the opportunity they are now getting in America. They might not even be alive.
It’s not all just about what these refugees are receiving, however: It’s also about what they are giving. They are bringing their culture and diversity to America. As a result, we get to be more of a melting pot community; one helping to improve inclusivity to all across the world.
I’m sharing all of this to inspire everyone associated with Team Rubicon—staff, Greyshirts, and even individual donors—to continue to do more. Not just with our Afghan support mission, but in all we do in life. I know we are all hard-charging, going 100-miles-a-minute, multitasking, and trying to hit deadlines so we can get support to all those who need it, but please breathe. Take a second to hear these guests’ and disaster survivors’ stories, and to welcome them. Take a moment to learn more about their culture and hear their own ‘why.’ I knew nothing about the Afghan community or culture prior to helping with this program, but this has really opened my eyes and helped me understand more about their culture, the hardships they still face, and how I can become a better welcomer to all refugees, immigrants, and asylees taking sanctuary with us—along with helping those in my community.
I know a lot of us are exhausted, tired, overwhelmed, and burnt out—heck I’ll be the first to say I am and have been for the past year—but just remember why we do what we do. This day in the field was a good reminder of why I was drawn to work in disaster response and humanitarian aid. And, it helped restore some of my faith in humanity.
I encourage each of you to take a day and sign up for a local operation or service project. And if you want to get out in the field to see the amazing work these volunteers are doing for the Resettlement Program or serving disaster survivors in places like Kentucky let me know and I can get you out there.
Thank you everyone for your hard work and your continued support of Team Rubicon’s Resettlement Program. You might not be able to see firsthand the impact it has had on the lives of these Afghan guests, but this I promise: You are truly having an impact in more ways than you might ever realize.
Financial assistance provided by the US Department of State through the Afghan Placement and Assistance Program, received via Church World Service, has enabled Team Rubicon, in conjunction with local and national resettlement partners and donors, to provide essential household goods and move-in support for resettling Afghan families and individuals.