CWS Honors Six Afghan Community Leaders for Role Welcoming Afghan Arrivals

October 26, 2022

New York City—This evening, October 26th, Church World Service will honor six Afghans in American communities across the nation who are giving back and helping refugees fleeing the Taliban find safety in the United States. The six will be presented with the 2022 Champions for Change Award as part of CWS’s annual Benefit for Change gala in Manhattan. These Champions are being honored because of their dedication to supporting and welcoming new arrivals over the past year in communities across the country.

In advance of tonight’s Benefit for Change, Rick Santos, President and CEO of Church World Service issued the following comments:

The Benefit for Change is a welcome opportunity to honor those among us that are dedicating their lives to the betterment of all. It is a chance to elevate the impact these tireless crusaders are having—as volunteers, trailblazers, faith leaders, and more—in our communities. Whether committed to the purpose of eradicating hunger or poverty, helping those living in fear to find a safe place to call home, or providing a helping hand to those impacted by natural disaster, these everyday heroes showcase the best of us.

Since the fall of Kabul over a year ago, this year’s Champions for Change have dedicated themselves to being a vital lifeline for those fleeing the persecution of the Taliban. Some of these Champions have been in the United States for years, some fled Afghanistan within the last 14 months, but each felt the same calling to stand up in a time of crisis. We feel privileged to honor them with this award, but it is they who honor us by showing us what being a champion truly means.

CWS has welcomed 7,644 Afghan arrivals since August 2021. This monumental accomplishment would not have been possible without support from Afghan advocates and community leaders, like tonight’s honorees, who stepped up to lend their time, skills and resources to this vital cause. The Champions for Change Award is named in honor of John Backer, the longest serving employee and volunteer in Church World Service history, who gave a total of 61 years of service in the name of refugees and international leadership development. 

Tonight’s Champion for Change Awardees are:

  • Hamidullah Amiry, Winchester Office Director, CWS Virginia/WinchesterMohammad
  • Mohammed Hares Aria, Case Manager, CWS South Florida
  • Sayeed Azhar, Immigration Legal Counselor, CWS Lancaster/Harrisburg
  • Fatima Mohmand, Interpreter, CWS Durham
  • Shabina Nasiri, Refugee Health Promoter, CWS Jersey City
  • Khovaja Samir Seddiqi (goes by: Samir), Paralegal for Immigration Legal Services, CWS Greensboro

The Benefit for Change has a long history of honoring those among us who devote their time, energy and passion to creating lasting sustainable progress for those impacted by displacement, poverty, hunger and disaster. During COVID-19 the Benefit for Change was paused, the last recipients of the Champion of Change Award were La Posada Providencia Respite Shelter, The Holding Institute Community Center—both representatives of the Southern Border Shelter Network—and Angry Tias & Abuelas of Rio Grande Valley. These powerful and inspiring groups were honored for their work tirelessly supporting asylum seekers along the southern border—many of whom have crossed insurmountable distances simply to live lives in safety.

Tonight’s Benefit for Change can be viewed via livestream here, beginning at 7:30 pm Eastern.

For more information, or to speak with Santos or tonight’s honorees, contact