Haroon came to this country in late 2014 from Afghanistan with his wife and children. They first settled in Baltimore, where they felt unprepared and in shock, but hopeful for a better future.
Haroon worked as a translator/fixer for war correspondents at NBC News in Kabul during 2001-2003. He had accompanied news correspondents to cover the US army in Afghanistan, and risked his life many times. Although he had a special visa on behalf of his work with the government with USAID, he and his family received poor services from the resettlement agency when they arrived.
They dealt with many challenges, including getting a drivers license, children adjusting to a new culture and school, affordable housing and a job search. The children needed to learn English, and Haroon read them stories, translating them to Dari to help them learn. He describes them as resilient.
The most challenging part for Haroon was finding a job. After getting a drivers license, Haroon’s first job was driving for Uber. Although he is a lawyer, he is unable to practice law here until he passes the bar. With little money and time to study, he continued to look for work while driving.
A friend told him about this NGO called Upwardly Global (UpGlo). When he looked at their web site and saw they helped skilled immigrants, he was interested since he had not seen that term used before in his job search. UpGlo was immediately responsive. He was given a mentor to help him sort through the job search process and get training online for interview skills.
Haroon got a job as a Program Specialist with a US Government Contractor in Virginia. His wife is learning English and his children are in better schools. Haroon says housing is still an issue as they are on a 3 year waiting list for low income housing.
Haroon says many immigrants come here with a good education and skills. Many come from areas of conflict. He hopes the government will be better able to help them win the battle of resettlement and job placement. Haroon hears about other immigrants who settle with US allies, in places like Canada, Australia and England. He thinks they are better at receiving and settling their newly arrived immigrants, living a life with better education, housing and jobs.
Haroon says UpGlo continues to be a great support for him, providing him with mentors, advisers and opportunities with organized events. Although Haroon has his job at the Justice Sector Support program for Afghanistan, he still hopes to save money to prepare for the bar so he can advance and practice law, his chosen profession.
Haroon hopes the larger community will understand the plight of immigrants when they first arrive. They are leaving their roots and are in shock, they are not prepared for the transition. He says the community they live in now is great with great schools for his children. He hopes there will be more programs available like Upglo that will help new immigrants with the basics for living: housing, education and jobs.
Haroon still drives for Uber part time to help him pay his bills. He seeks a better life and remains hopeful.