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‘Free to Learn’: 17-Year-Old Afghan Refugee Sees Future in Edmonton

Nargis and six family members arrived in Edmonton in January 2022. Nargis, 17, fled Kabul with her three siblings, her sister-in-law and her parents when Kabul fell into Taliban hands in August 2021.

“I was writing my last exam,” Nargis recalls. “It was Tuesday and Wednesday was the last day of my exam. Just leave it alone and go home safely.”

It was chaos, said Nargis. Everything happened so fast.

“Nobody believed the Taliban would take over the capital, so I really couldn’t believe that the Taliban could have taken over Kabul.”


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When he left school that day, Nargis couldn’t help but think about his education and his future.

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“My mother told me about 20 years ago, during the Taliban era, girls weren’t allowed to go to school. But this is the 21st century!

“When I got home, it was the last day I saw school. It was the last day I saw my friends.”

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In just a few hours, Nargis and some of her family packed up the essentials and left.

“Nothing was normal,” she said. “People were roaming the streets, but there was nowhere to run.”

Her family took a bus and walked across the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. As a member of the Hazara minority, her family felt particularly at risk.

Nargis’ brother is also a prominent human rights advocate.

“For the first 20 days[in Pakistan]I didn’t speak, I just cried,” Nargis said. “We had nowhere to go and no hope.


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After five months of hiding, she and her brother were accepted into Canada under the Immigration Stream of Immigrants, Refugees and Canadian Citizenship Human Rights Defenders.

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Nargis has family members still in danger in Afghanistan, so Global News identifies her using only her first name.

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Catholic Social Services helped families find accommodation, provided settlement assistance, and provided counseling and orientation sessions to help them adjust to life in Canada.

Nargis was part of a group of 170 Afghan refugees who came to Edmonton. About half of that he was under the age of 18. So far this year CSS has helped her resettle 800 Afghan refugees in Edmonton and Red Deer.

Organizations are witnessing a surge in demand.

“What we are experiencing is unlike anything we have seen before,” said CEO Troy Davies. “The mix of environmental disasters, war and the reopening of Canada’s borders is driving up the need.”

Canada has pledged to host 40,000 Afghan refugees, of which about 18,000 have already arrived. CSS expects at least 1,000 more of her to arrive in central Alberta. Hundreds of people are also expected to participate through a private sponsorship program.

CSS says it is set to serve about 500 government-sponsored refugees annually. We currently offer over 1,200 services.

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“And it continues to grow.

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CSS is funded by the government for basic needs such as housing and food, but offers other services and programs (funded by donations) to assist in the transition.

“Additional support through funding such as Sign of Hope is needed to equip people and prepare them to succeed in Canada,” explained Friesen.

CSS hopes to raise $2.6 million this year.


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Nargis said the support from CSS, especially school supplies like tablets and mental health counseling, helped her a lot.

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“There are a lot of people like me who struggle with mental health. When I came to Canada, I had a lot of problems besides leaving the country. Two weeks before I came to Canada, I lost my mother. I was.

“When I came here, I was struggling a lot with my mental health[but]I had a psychologist, a doctor help me.”

Nargis entered grade 12 this fall. The difference between Afghan schools and Canadian schools is day and night.

“When I came to Canada, I realized…there are so many opportunities and you are not afraid to learn. You have a future. You can go to college and you are following your dreams. There was not.

“Every day we left our homes in fear of making it home alive. Every week there were two or three bomb explosions in different parts of Kabul and Afghanistan, especially in educational facilities. But here, instead of hearing bombs and gunshots, I hear birdsong and birdsong, and I am free to learn.”

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She also appreciates the diversity here.

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“One of the very interesting things that I have discovered about Canadian schools is that you see the image of the world. I have friends who speak Somali or Arabic and I can learn a little bit about their language and we can communicate in each other’s language.”

Nargis speaks Persian and English, and uses a tablet to learn French. But her big interest is science, especially medicine.


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While she is excited about what her future holds, she often thinks about the girls and women still living in Afghanistan, including her three sisters.

“Since I came to Edmonton, Canada, my whole life has changed. I started school and met new friends. Outside of school, I do volunteer work. This is my life in Canada,” said Nargis.

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“There are still thousands of girls in Afghanistan who cannot go to school. I spoke to one of my friends last night and she said: Their dreams are dashed…they want to be doctors. , want to be engineers, but stay home, they can’t go to school.

“I really want the world to hear us. Not only do they pity us, they help us.”

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.



‘Free to Learn’: 17-Year-Old Afghan Refugee Sees Future in Edmonton

Source link ‘Free to Learn’: 17-Year-Old Afghan Refugee Sees Future in Edmonton

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