Friendship After Kabul
Jared's Volunteer Story
A little over a year ago in August 2021, I deployed to Afghanistan with the 82nd Airborne as part of Operation Allies Refuge. Our goal was to evacuate American citizens as well as Afghan allies fleeing the Taliban and seeking safety in the U.S. My experiences during the evacuation stuck with me. Even after returning to North Carolina, the memories continued to occupy my mind. I wanted to find a way to help here at home.
After some quick internet searching, I realized that not only Afghans, but hundreds of refugees from around the world arrive in North Carolina every year with the hope of a new beginning So, inspired by the opportunity to serve these new neighbors, I signed up as a volunteer with Church World Service. CWS quickly connected me with the Gul family from Afghanistan to serve as their English conversation partner.
I think it was healing for all of us to simply be together.
Feeling both excited and a little nervous for my first meeting with the family, I brushed up on some common courtesies I learned from my time in Afghanistan and stopped by a Middle Eastern market for some tea and dates on my way to their home. From the moment I arrived, the family was so welcoming. Despite a language barrier, we began chatting and quickly realized that we had left Afghanistan on the same day: August 24, 2021. Over the next few hours, we practiced English while the kids played, but more than anything, I think it was healing for all of us to simply be together.
I am very happy, more than happy.
When I recall my time at the Kabul airport, I remember everyone was so afraid. I saw little kids with a look that no one, especially a child, should ever have on their face. I know we cannot change the loss and terror that these families experienced, but when I see the Gul children and their parents playing and laughing together again, I have hope for the new life they will build here.
If you would have told me a year ago that some of the families with whom I interacted in Kabul would be safe, starting to get settled, or even smiling, I would not have believed it. Working with the Gul family has been so meaningful, and even more so when I consider the greater scale of CWS in North Carolina. Through this work, I’m reminded it takes all of us to ensure that our new neighbors have a safe place to call home.