British Columbians volunteer to help Afghan refugees upon arrival

Abdul Rahim Ahmed Parwani remembers coming to Canada as a refugee the last time the Taliban took over Afghanistan. Now, he’s putting his experiences to work helping a new wave of refugees.

“I see in them myself when I came to Canada with my family,” he told CTV News Vancouver.

Ahmed Parwani works with S.U.C.C.E.S.S, a non-profit group that helps immigrants and refugees as they settle in Canada. He is in Ontario right now, offering assistance to refugees arriving there.

He’s part of a team offering employment services such as resume-writing, job search tips and interview preparedness, as well as settlement services, including housing and special programs for seniors and young people.

Ahmed Parwani is one of six S.U.C.C.E.S.S. employees who volunteered to go to Ontario to be part of the refugee resettlement process and assist with translation.

“Really, it is to help those Afghan refugees get settled,” said Queenie Choo, CEO of S.U.C.C.E.S.S.

“To make sure, you know, they are well, because they have gone through so much mentally and physically and emotionally. We are committed to helping the most vulnerable, to empowering them in the Canadian journey to get settled, to create a sense of belonging.”

Ahmed Parwani is halfway through his two-week deployment.

“Having this opportunity, it’s a big honour to me,” he said. “(The refugees) are excited about being in Canada and besides that, they are worried about their country and their families left behind.”

Many people with Canadian passports remain in Afghanistan, having been unable to get on one of the rescue flights before the Aug. 31 American deadline to leave the country. Those who have managed to leave are worrying about relatives they had to leave behind.

“We have at least seven families who arrived (in B.C.) after passing two weeks of quarantine somewhere in Ontario,” said Hakim Nazem, of the Afghan Association of B.C.

“These families, they need basic essentials support for at least a couple of weeks until they settle somewhere in their own accommodations.”

Nazem said the first group arrived in B.C. about four days ago.

“They come with one piece of clothes and shoes probably and they have kids,” he said. “We’re doing our best to do two things at one time: help and support the newcomers and also try to bring as many refugees as we can.”

The 20,000 Afghan refugees Canada has promised to resettle is not a high enough number, said Nazem.

“20,000 for a country in crisis is nothing,” he told CTV News. “We will push them to make changes, to make the process easy and also to increase the number.”

He said the election came at the worst time, given the Afghan crisis, and he hopes the new Canadian government will make changes to the process.

“Our goal is to make the association a sponsorship holder and make an agreement with the government to bring in refugees, to sponsor some refugees,” said Nazem.

He said he also wants to see sponsorship done similarly to the way it was done during the Syrian refugee crisis, when private sponsorships by churches and mosques were approved.

“All these people, they are educated and they will come and be a part of the taxpayers and workforce and the future of this country,” said Nazem.