Stories of Change

Shukria sits in the CWS office in Miami

From Kabul to CWS Case Manager in Miami. Here is the story of Shukria. 

Remember the shocking footage we have all seen on televisions as Kabul fell and Afghans desperately hung onto U.S. military jets for dear life, some dropping to their death? For those of us who watched from afar, the footage was nothing less than a nightmare and a heartbreak. But Shukria was at the airport and remembers the terrifying moments as Afghans tried to flee on departing U.S. jets. “The airport was very crowded, people pushed each other,” recalls Shukria. She was one of the thousands who desperately attempted to leave Afghanistan. Shukria reflects her experience of leaving a beloved home and building a brand-new life here in the U.S. with the help and support of Church World Service in Miami.

Like many other Afghans, it was not a choice for Shukria to leave Afghanistan and seek asylum. It was about safety for her own life and a search for freedom. She knew the new moral code that would emerge under the new Afghanistan leadership would deprive her of the opportunities to continue her computer science studies and contribute to her country. 

Shukria’s life improved a lot as a girl in Afghanistan over the years, despite the daily shelling and violence that continued to tear her country apart. Shukria went to school with many other girls, and she watched Afghan girls play sports. She had seen girls and women become active members in their country. Even some held positions in the government. 

Everything fell apart in one day. She tells us her story in comprehensive English, even including details about the weather in her escape stories. “First we arrived in Qatar. It was a very hot day. It was not a comfortable place to sleep. And not good food,” she says. The crowd grew larger and Shukria was among many Afghans, including women and children, facing uncertainty under the scorching sun at a military base in Qatar.  

From One Military Camp in Qatar to Another one in the United States

It was late 2021 when Shukria finally found herself–along with her sister and a cousin–on a flight to Pennsylvania. Back in Afghanistan were the rest of her family: mom, dad and other siblings. As her plane cruised at altitude from the Qatar airport, Shukria looked down and only imagined the terrifying last second of those fellow Afghans who dropped from airplanes mid-air. Each hour that passed over the Atlantic Ocean brought mixed emotions. For Shukria there were many questions running in her head: how would life in the U.S. be for her? And who will be there to support her? What would she do? 

The two months she stayed in a U.S. military camp here in the United States brought her so much joy as she made new friends from people of different backgrounds, some of whom she would have never met in Afghanistan. Together, they navigated the new life here in the United States. “When you come to a new place, you are not familiar with everything. There are new rules, norms and all…it is not easy to learn all of them at once. It takes time. But I am very happy to be here in Miami,” Shukria told us. 

Working with CWS

“When we arrived here in Miami, we were not familiar with anything. It was only Church World Service that helped us with everything. They showed us some grocery stores. People, cultural orientation… It was very good for us,” Shukria says. 

By late January, Shukria’s ability to speak English fluently and speak both Pashto and Dari immediately became her skills to join the CWS team as a translator. Then she became a case manager. “I go with the Afghan clients when they go to the health departments for medical needs. Sometimes I go with them to the urgent care and besides being a case manager, I also do some translation services,” she says.

When we talked to Shukria in January, there were over 400 Afghans resettled in Miami, some of whom are clients of CWS. Shukria supports other CWS case managers with translation and sometimes with understanding the Afghan culture and traditions. Shukria’s role within CWS in a short period of time has changed many lives, and we can say that she has brought CWS and the Afghan clients closer together. CWS cares so much about the norms and traditions of its clients and bridging any gaps between our staff members and the clients. Shukria herself a client of CWS and now a contributor to the everyday changes that happen in our communities and mostly in our newly arrived Afghan clients as they navigate through their new lives here.

What is Next for Shukria?

Inspired by the services CWS provides to the clients, Shukria sees herself taking up a much bigger role in the future continuing the efforts staff members at CWS had shown. But now Shukria herself is also receiving CWS support in her asylum case. “Hopefully in a few days, my asylum process starts, and then green card and citizenship,” Shukria states with a smile on her face. “One day I want to be another American.”

 Donate here to support other newcomers like Shukria as they find a safe place to call home.