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Finding Work as a Refugee

Today, the Afghan family, Bill Brinkhorst, the interpreter, and I met at the family’s apartment. Bill Biedenstein, Paul Litzsinger, Shirley Bild, and Dan and Kathy Herron joined by Zoom. We wanted to cover food security, jobs and personal finance. We had 25 well rehearsed questions to pose. After three hours, we covered two of them.

The good news is that many cultural problems and frustrations came to the fore, and the interpreter, an Afghan who is a 20-year American citizen, explained his experiences with the International Institute and his story of making his way in this country. Our questions addressed the complications of food security, the skills needed to find work, and the opportunities that our group considered within their reach, now or in the near future.

The most insightful discussion involved the pressure created by fellow expatriates. The interpreter noted that many Indian immigrants looked for work in the hotel industry, following those before, many Pakistanis in retail convenience stores, and Afghans found their best opportunities as contracted drivers. In each case, opening the doors for friends and family to follow.

The father of the family believes that his best chance at financial stability is in contract driving, so we will support that motivation. Still, we will continue to advise him of opportunities as we find them.

We discussed sewing work that the mother could do at home, and we described several opportunities that we will pursue.

Tea, nuts and cookies encouraged our conversation, as is traditional. Excessive hospitality has followed each of our meetings so far. Although we each have our vision of their best path forward, the family needs to make their own decisions. We find many stumbling blocks ahead, but we are benefitting, just from the chance to help someone in need.

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