The Second Anniversary of Afghan Evacuation: Reflection and Rebuilding

August 16, 2023

As we commemorate the second anniversary of the Afghanistan evacuation, an event that marked a significant turning point in the history of the world, this day prompts us to reflect on the lessons learned, challenges faced, and reflections of those who have survived the chaotic evacuation. Here is the story of an Afghan that encapsulates the resilience and strength of those who were part of this significant chapter. Abdul’s story paints a vivid picture of the challenges, hope, and transformation that marked his journey from Kabul to the welcoming community of Harrisonburg, Virginia.

Abdul’s odyssey began against the backdrop of Kabul’s tumultuous times, where the breakdown of law and order plunged the city into chaos in the summer of 2021. For years, Abdul had been supporting the U.S. military, witnessing the shifting sands of stability. The military base that had long provided solace turned into a place of urgency, marking a day he knew he had to leave. “Every time I think of that experience, it brings back traumatic memories.”

During the evacuation, Abdul’s gaze was locked onto the unfolding events, including the ascent of the Taliban. This day, he reflects, “Was the most arduous of my life.” What could happen next in Kabul was only anyone’s guess. 

The foreign army in Afghanistan orchestrated an evacuation, offering refuge to Afghans who had stood by their side. Among the scenes of families boarding planes to leave Afghanistan, Abdul’s turn came, and he embarked on a journey that took him through Doha, Qatar, for ten days and then to Germany, before touching down at Dulles Airport in Washington D.C.

What followed was a series of transitions. At a U.S. military base in Indiana, there was a team that facilitated immigration procedures and interviews. After the base, it was the Church World Service that stood as a pillar of support in Abdul’s integration into his new life.

Adjusting to a new reality in the United States proved daunting for Abdul as is for most immigrants. Tasks as basic as rebuilding his life including re-entering the education system, finding employment and mastering public transportation took on new complexities. CWS, however, was a steadfast ally, ready to address his questions and concerns. “Imagine comparing the U.S. to Afghanistan, it was a massive shift,” Abdul added. “Every little bit of help was much appreciated.”

Embracing the support provided by CWS, Abdul seamlessly transitioned into life in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Navigating local bus routes and exploring his neighborhood on evening walks, he gradually found a sense of belonging. The experience deepened when he realized that some of his fellow Afghan friends were also benefiting from CWS’ assistance, creating a web of solidarity as they navigated their new home.

Today, Abdul thrives in his adopted homeland. Working as a press assistant for a local company, he leverages skills he cultivated in Afghanistan, while pursuing further studies to build upon his civil engineering degree. His journey from the tumultuous departure from Kabul to a promising future in Harrisonburg is a testament to his resilience and the vital role CWS played in facilitating such transitions.