A Refugee at a Young Age
At the age of six, Jawed first became a refugee. This was his first fleeing experience.
“My family joined in the fight against the Soviet Union, and it became difficult for us to live in Afghanistan. I left Afghanistan alone with a stranger taking me to Pakistan,” he said.
He met-up with his family in Pakistan three months later, where they lived in a refugee camp.
Later, when Russian communism was defeated, his family was finally able to return to Afghanistan. But soon after, a civil war started, so once again Jawed’s family left Afghanistan to return to Pakistan. This was his second fleeing experience.
After college, Jawad worked for a Boston-based international healthcare company as an IT specialist.
“Most of the remote areas were without any medicine, health facilities, clinics, or schools, nothing, we started from scratch.”
“I was in a tech role that traveled with the doctor. Everyone always called me doctor even though I was not a doctor. I was an IT guy,” said Jawed.
When Jawed started this career in 2002, there was very little infrastructure in place in Afghanistan due to decades of unrest and war.
“Most of the remote areas were without any medicine, health facilities, clinics or schools; we started from scratch,” said Jawed.
A Tipping Point
In March of 2017, everything changed.
“I received threatening phone calls, texts, and a letter from the Taliban or Al Qaeda telling me they knew who I was, and that my name was on a hit list along with the names of two other well-known expats who spent their lives teaching and aiding the Afghan people. But I ignored these messages. That year was really risky for me to go anywhere,” said Jawed.
“When I found out they knew my address, and my son’s name was on the hit list, that was the last of it…”
Jawed’s office got attacked by a car bomb twice, stopping operations for months at a time.
“My wife blamed everything on me, saying, ‘Because of you we are getting threats and cannot go outside,’” he explained.
“At the end of 2017, when I found out they knew my address, and my son’s name was on the hit list, that was the last of it, I couldn’t take it anymore. I started talking with my wife about moving, and we decided to leave Afghanistan again.”
An Introduction to the U.S. Embassy
Jawed shared these threats with his boss, who provided him with a recommendation letter and introduced Jawed to the SIV program through the U.S. Embassy. Jawed was chosen for the program.
For the third time Jawed and his family fled their homeland, this time seeking refuge in the United States.
Fleeing Home a Third Time
In 2019, Jawed and his family were resettled through Arrive Ministries
“It was a very difficult decision to make to move my family here,” said Jawed. “Arrive Ministries set up cultural orientation programs for us, which were helpful. At the beginning it was difficult to understand the laws here. Early on, Americans would offended me when they’d shake my wife’s hand, now I am used to this as a greeting,” said Jawed.
“Now I don’t feel alone here. They are my best friends in Minnesota. It’s how I learn the culture.”
We connected Jawed’s family with a welcoming team from Christ Redeemer Church in Woodbury.
“Thanks to Arrive Ministries, I was introduced to five families here who were all very welcoming and friendly people. Now, I don’t feel alone here. They are my best friends in Minnesota, I always enjoy being with them, it is how I learn the culture,” said Jawed.
Jawed’s wife also found companionship and connection through this church team.
“Whenever my wife needed to go somewhere for social security or to English classes she always got help from them. Even though it was stressful for her to not be able to speak English, she uses hand motions to communicate, and she has found friends through her ESL classes,” said Jawed.
A Heart in Two Places
Jawed and his family have been in Minnesota now for over a year, but his heart is still with the people in Afghanistan.
“We have loved ones back home; so when we hear of explosions on the news, we call there, but often the phone doesn’t go through for two or three days. When I speak with them, I always encourage them to vote. It’s always my prayer to everyone back home that we will have a fair election. Our only hope is democracy,” said Jawed.
Becoming a Real Minnesotan
Last summer Jawed took his kids to a lake and they saw a boat for the first time.
“Through it all, God was always there helping in unexpected ways and answering our prayers for a better life.”
“My son went up and touched the boat, so I explained what fishing is to my kids. A family nearby asked if we wanted to come on their boat. Once they started the boat, my son started crying,” he said.
Through Jawed’s three experiences of fleeing his homeland for safety, he has remained mentally and emotionally strong.
“My kids’ futures are really important to me. Through it all, God was always there helping in unexpected ways and answering our prayers for a better life,” said Jawed.