Stories of Change

Samir sits in the CWS Greensboro office.

From Kabul to CWS Paralegal: The Story of Samir.

It was a beautiful spring morning in Greensboro, North Carolina, as we sat in the office of Church World Service. Looking out of the window, the tulip magnolia trees were in bloom, decorating the skyscrapers of Greensboro and roads that stretch as far as our eyes could reach. Sitting with us that day was an Afghan national and a CWS paralegal. Khovaja Samir Seddiqi walked into the interview room wearing a black leather jacket and a big smile. The room is a few feet from his desk, where he sits everyday along with other CWS staff.

Samir is from Kabul, Afghanistan, and he has been in Greensboro since August of last year. He was not a CWS client when he first came, but due to the high demand of Afghans who can communicate in both languages, Samir has the gift of being fluent in all three: English, Dari and Pashto. CWS Greensboro hired Samir as a paralegal; his day-to-day activities include working with Afghan clients on adjusting their cases. “Us, Afghans, we are on a temporary status. We are here for two years, after that we have no idea. So, what happens? It is expensive to hire an attorney, but with us here at CWS it is free. But if they consult outside of CWS attorneys, they charge thousands of dollars, and refugees don’t have that money,” says Samir.

Samir feels both blessed and stressed at the same time. He moved to the United States with his two sisters, who are 18 and 16 years old. His older sister finished high school in Kabul, and she is now in an English class in Greensboro. The 16-year-old is in a Newcomers school learning English as well. Samir’s face lights up with joy as he talks about how fast his sisters are adjusting into their new lives. They are making friends faster than he could think of. Samir’s facial expression immediately changes as he talks about his other siblings and father who are in Kabul. “Now that I am talking, I don’t know what is happening to my family in Afghanistan.” His voice rises.

What most American don’t know about our new Afghan neighbors is how gifted they are. Besides speaking multiple languages, Samir also holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science and information technology. He worked with a U.S. military defense contractor, in their logistics division, for seven years. He had also served in the Afghan government as an office manager in the media and I.T. departments. He co-founded a nonprofit that was an advocate for human rights. All that fell apart in one day when Kabul fell. But that was not the end of his work. Samir, now a proud member of the Church World Service team in Greensboro, is a great team player when it comes to helping the Afghans adjust into their new lives.

“Afghans don’t understand the system in this country…It is very different from what we had in our country. This is the reason I started working with CWS in the Greensboro office, we have more than 100 Afghans resettled here–on humanitarian parole,” he says.

“I remember my first day here at CWS and seeing all the services here. There is a team. And team matters here! The one goal is to serve the people here—those who need help. From case management, to employment, to adjustment of status and legal needs.”