Last week many gathered in Cafe K'Tizo (umm, try the vanilla herbal tea latte!!) to hear some of the stories of those who have come to the United States through the Special Immigrant Visa Program (commonly know as SIVs). Hearing some of the stories of Afghani and Iraqi translators and military who helped U.S. troops puts a face to the SIVs program. Ali (far left above) was the first Iraqi to arrive to World Relief Dupage Aurora through the SIVs program. Since that time 36 Iraqis have arrived through WRDA with SIVs starting in 2009 and 26 Afghans since 2014. Throughout America's many years of presence in other countries our military relies heavily on upon the support of Afghan and Iraqi nationals. Many have served as interpreters, engineers, security guards, cultural advisors, and other roles. Groups like the Taliban and Iraqi death squads have been known to show no mercy to these individuals and often they fear daily for their security. Many SIVs apply for the program after their lives or their family's lives are threatened for their involvement with aiding our troops overseas. Many arrive in the U.S. with strong English skills, advanced education, and professional experience. As the current changes to the refugee program are debated this event helped highlight the importance to the SIVs program as these folks have risked their lives to help the United States.
Wasim shared passionately about his adjustment to life in the United States including profusely thanking his job skills teacher who was sitting in the front row to support him. He also teared up sharing about his hopes to save enough money to bring his family here in the future.
Muzghan shared about her life as a woman working on a base in Afghanistan and the struggles she faced there because of her involvement with the U.S. military as a woman. She is extremely proud that here in the United States she can work freely.
Ali, who speaks 4 languages and currently works as a electronics consultant ended the night with a plea for mutual understanding and compassion. "We're all human beings, we're just people. Everyone needs to know that in Iraq, there are good, hard-working people, and many of them right now are suffering."
I am grateful to partner with WRDA to help them tell these important stories!
The Chicago Tribune also covered the event and some of Hawa Image's photographs of the evening were published (see & read more here.)