About a year ago, Oklahoma began welcoming our new Afghan neighbors. Since then, I have had the opportunity to meet several Afghan families who have resettled here. It was interesting to learn about their different cultures and religious practices. Although their customs may vary based on specific regional influences, Afghans generally share remarkable traits of strength and resilience.
My journey began as a member of the small welcoming group for the arrival of the first Afghan family at Will Rogers Airport. Over the next few weeks, volunteers welcomed them with clothes and toys. The husband, a devoted family man, found a job soon after and is working hard to improve the lives of his children.
My closest Afghan friend doesn’t speak English and it took some time before a translator was available. Despite everything, I fell in love with the family. It was a thrill and an honor when she invited me to be with her during the birth of her son. After supporting her through a difficult pregnancy, I was overwhelmed with joy and relief when the baby came out and proclaimed her presence.
Fleeing with her toddlers and other children from war-torn Afghanistan, my friend endured a lot. However, she is strong and smart. A pioneer, this irrepressible mother has already shown her entrepreneurial spirit by launching a small craft business with her daughters and now wants to learn to drive “like American women”.
These refugees learned the American dream of freedom and independence from the allies they served in Afghanistan. They risked their lives to support our efforts, then were forced by the Taliban to leave behind their siblings, relatives and friends who are now suffering from starvation and torture.
Our workforce needs these industrious and courageous people, especially in light of our current labor shortage. In Afghanistan, they served as soldiers, military intelligence, and teachers, but humbly accepted jobs below their skill levels here in the United States. They move forward with the firm belief that the American Dream is achievable through hard work.
Let’s continue to reach out to help our workplaces and new neighbors prosper by sharing job postings with resettlement agencies, Catholic charities or The Spero Project – [email protected] (405) 312- 6705. It’s a win-win proposition!
Shannon Warren is a former human resources manager, professor of business ethics, and CEO of a nonprofit organization. She is president of the Women’s Diversity Initiative of Oklahoma, https://womensdiversityinitiative.com.