BROOMFIELD, Colo. — The United States evacuated more than 84,000 Afghan refugees since troops left the country last year. It’s the largest U.S. resettlement effort since 1975 after the Vietnam war.
Resettling these families is a costly endeavor and takes months for each family. It’s often resettlement agencies that find them homes.
These agencies are given a one-time payment from the federal government of $2,275 for each refugee. That’s for housing and other necessities, but after that, refugee families are largely on their own.
“We finally made it to the U.S. by the support of the U.S. Army and the U.S. government, and we are here now to start our new life,” said Dr. Mirwais Baheej.
Six months ago, they were forced to leave their home and life in Afghanistan behind.
“We were employed. We have good lives, everything in life. But when the regime changed and the Taliban came, we had to flee,” said Baheej.
Baheej worked with U.S. troops for several years. He and his family were evacuating at the airport the day of the suicide bombing.
“Suddenly just a blast happened, and it did change everything. It was a horrible moment. But just in a few seconds, I thought that everyone was lost,” said Baheej.
Three of his family members died. His daughter and niece—10-year-old Shadukt and 9-year-old Hada—were both badly hurt. The girls were separated from the family and airlifted to Qatar and Germany for surgery.
“I had been 12 days in coma,” said Shadukt Baheej.
Shadukt woke up in a United States hospital alone.
“It was so hard in the hospital because we were like alone and I missed my family so much, and I was always crying about them. It is hard to be like far from your country, from your family. Like you’d feel sad if that happened to you,” she said.
Hada didn’t find out her father died until weeks later. It took the family two months to be reunited at a military base in the U.S.
“When we came, we just had a backpack. We had nothing left with us,” said Baheej. “You are beginning the life from scratch, from zero.”
They were moved to Colorado, where they have some extended family, and a resettlement agency received money for housing and clothing to help support the family.
This one-time help only amounts to a few thousand dollars, and this family has 17 people needing food and shelter.
“We need to work to finance the needs of the family, which quite a lot,” said Baheej. “You are unfamiliar to the system. You, you, you've not done your education here. So, everything is quite new.”
It’s been nearly six months since the bombing, and while the nation may have moved past the news of refugees arriving, the tens of thousands of families now here are still struggling.
The Baheejs and their extended family are still trying to find permanent housing they can afford and work similar to their high-skilled jobs back home.
“I have worked at the government and high-level positions in the economic sector and managerial and leadership positions,” said Baheej. “I have to start from some point, and you know, to be, you know, economically active member of the society, which is what I want to be.”
But, this family found a small safety net—one that came in a pint-sized serving. Troop 68352 is embracing the girls and their entire family.
“It's fun, and you can feel empowered and you can make friends,” said Shadukht of joining the troop.
They’re raising money for the Baheejs at their cookie booths as Baheej looks for jobs. It’s also giving the family and the girls a doorway to American life.
“It is a good, you know, a good place for them to forget the things that that happen to them and then they integrate to the society and to a normal life,” said Baheej.
"To see what this particular troop, these volunteers and their families have done to embrace this family and give them community is amazing, and I hope that folks take away that you can make a difference and there is something we can all do to help," said Leanna Clark, the CEO of Girl Scouts of Colorado.
The family still needs a lot of help and support, but this small bite of normalcy is feeding their hope for a better tomorrow: an example of what so many refugees are searching for months after leaving their country.
“We will have a good life, hopefully. It takes time. I am really optimistic,” said Baheej.
You can help the Baheej family by donating HERE.
You can also buy cookies from the girls from their digital cookie booth, HERE.