‘We are ready to step up’ Winnipeg organization helps Afghan evacuee family resettle

In this handout provided by U.S. Central Command Public Affairs, U.S. Air Force loadmasters and pilots assigned to the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, load passengers aboard a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III in support of the Afghanistan evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA) on August 24, 2021 in Kabul, Afghanistan. The United States and allies urged Afghans to leave Kabul airport, citing the threat of terrorist attacks, as Western troops race to evacuate as many people as possible by August 31. (Photo by Master Sgt. Donald R. Allen/U.S. Air Forces Europe-Africa via Getty Images). (Photo by Master Sgt. Donald R. Allen/U.S. Air Forces Europe-Africa via Getty Images)

A handful of local organizations are helping at least one Afghan family get resettled, after they were evacuated from their home country.

One of those is the Afghan-Canadian Women’s Organization, whose co-founder Ariana Yaftali says they’re ready to do “whatever we can” to help the family and others adjust to their new lives.

“We co-founded this organization to come together as a group to see what we can do for each other to make the journey of resettlement effective, joyful and also fun, as well as interesting,” says Yaftali, adding she herself was a newcomer 20 years ago.

“The settlement services are much more robust than when I came to Canada, so they’re going to get a lot of good information and orientation about life in Canada, about various education help, (and) how to get around.”

Read more: U.S. helps bring refugees to Canada, but 1,250 Canadians remain in Afghanistan

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Yaftali says her members are making themselves available outside of the traditional working hours to add “another circle of support,” as the family navigates the nuances of moving to a new country, particularly given the language barrier.

“We will show, for example, taking them to an Afghan store here in Winnipeg. Or if they wish to go, for example, to some activities with the family, we can help those things,” Yaftali says.

“Plus we feel comfortable and we feel confident because we have done this work before.”

In the meantime, Yaftali says there’s been a tremendous outpouring of support from the community, for which she and the family are very grateful.

Read more: Canada, allies wary of China’s moves to fill Western void in Afghanistan

“They’re already expressing their gratitude to (the) Canadian government and to Canadian people. They’re absolutely overwhelmed by all the support that they have been shown,” Yaftali says.

“And the most important thing: they are in a safe place.”

Read more: ‘They tear at our souls’: Canada ends Kabul evacuation effort as many left behind

At the moment, Yaftali believes they’re the only family to be resettled in Manitoba, but expects more will arrive soon.

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Last week, the federal government said more than 3,000 evacuees had arrived in Canada from Afghanistan, and work was underway to welcome up to 5,000 more whose evacuations had been facilitated by the United States.

“The Government of Canada continues to use all avenues available to help Canadian citizens, permanent residents and their families, and vulnerable Afghans eligible under the special immigration measures, to leave Afghanistan and come to Canada,” Marco E. L. Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship and Marc Garneau, Minister of Foreign Affairs, said in a joint press release.

“Canadians have opened their homes and their hearts to Afghan refugees in 20 communities in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. With a well-established settlement network anchored across the country, more communities in other provinces and territories are also expected to welcome refugees in the days ahead and help them adjust to life in Canada.”

Yaftali says she applauds the government for rescuing as many people as it has, but adds there are still many more in need of help.

“Hopefully the government will work collaboratively at an international level because the story doesn’t end here,” Yaftali says.

“We have families here in Canada, here in Winnipeg, they have got their loved ones in Afghanistan so how we can work together to rescue at least those Canadian citizens, the ones that are still trapped in Afghanistan.”

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Click to play video: 'Afghanistan’s women go into hiding with Taliban now in full control'
Afghanistan’s women go into hiding with Taliban now in full control

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