More Than a Number: Meet Husna

Husna’s story is not unique. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 2.4 million refugees are now in need of protection through third-country resettlement. Like Husna, they are searching for the security that a safe and stable home provides. As the number of displaced people grows daily, there is an urgency for us to respond. 

Refugees are More than a Number: Meet Husna

Since 1980, the U.S. has participated in refugee resettlement and actively welcomed millions of refugees from all over the world through the United States Refugee Admissions Program.

Refugees are people who have been forced to flee their home countries due to persecution or a fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. They often live in refugee camps and cities outside of their home countries until they can either return home, locally integrate within the country to which they fled, or be permanently resettled to a third country like the United States. The numbers can feel overwhelming.

A while back, we had the privilege to talk with one of the refugees who fled Afghanistan in the aftermath of the U.S. military evacuation. Her name is Husna and her story is utterly heartbreaking but incredibly hopeful. We know once you meet Husna, the story of one refugee will open your eyes and move your heart.

The Need to Flee Home

When the Taliban gained control of Afghanistan, Husna was forced to go into hiding. Her brother, an Afghan military drone pilot, was flagged as a threat to the Taliban putting their entire family at risk. Husna and her family had already suffered the death of one brother to the Taliban and knew they would need to leave Afghanistan or they too would be killed. 

After forty-eight days of hiding in safe houses while waiting for their chance to evacuate, Husna, along with her brother and his fiance, received the call that they were on the evacuation list and should come to the airport the next morning.

Husna remembers the fear she felt around the uncertainty of not knowing what would happen and having to leave the rest of her family behind. Thankfully, she made it safely to the U.S. At first, Husna lived in a refugee camp on a military base and then three months later was relocated to a home in the northeastern United States.

Adjusting to Life in a New Land

Since arriving, Husna has felt welcomed into the U.S. She has a job and is providing for her family. She has begun to dream about her future, and she hopes to become a doctor. 

Husna was in medical school in Afghanistan when the Taliban occupied her country. Under Taliban control, as a female, she would never be allowed to study medicine or work and support her family. She is so grateful for the opportunities she has now in the U.S. and cannot imagine ever returning to her home country.

The Urgency of Resettlement

Husna’s story is not unique. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 2.4 million refugees are now in need of protection through third-country resettlement. For these refugees, resettlement in the United States represents the opportunity to start over and pursue a life of safety and dignity without fear of violence or persecution.

However, the resettlement process can take a very long time. Some refugees may spend years or even decades in camps before being referred to the U.S. where they often face difficulties in accessing basic needs such as clean water, sanitation facilities, and adequate shelter. Overcrowding and limited resources can exacerbate these challenges.

Then, after referral, it can take an additional two years for their case to be processed and to be resettled. Prolonged displacement can have profound psychological and social effects on individuals and families. There are also security concerns within refugee camps. Vulnerable populations, including women and children, may be at risk of exploitation, violence, and abuse.

Like Husna, they are searching for the security that a safe and stable home provides. As the number of displaced people grows daily, there is an urgency for us to respond. 

How can we help?

Americans—just like you and I—are joining the Welcome Corps, feeling called to help refugees on their pathway to safety.

“Welcoming refugees is an integral part of our American DNA, and we have seen this welcoming spirit flourish in the first year of the Welcome Corps. The Welcome Corps will continue to invite Americans to do what we do best — be caring and generous neighbors, guides, and friends to refugee newcomers as they build new lives in the United States,” said Ambassador Julieta Valls Noyes, Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration.

15,000 Americans have applied to join the Welcome Corps since it launched just over a year ago, and more than 100 sponsor groups across 32 states have now welcomed refugees from around the world. Participating sponsors represent Americans from all walks of life, including veterans, faith groups, businesses, universities, immigrants, and previously resettled refugees seeking to pay it forward, as well as Americans getting involved in refugee resettlement for the first time

Private sponsors, in groups of five or more, create support systems to ensure that refugees can thrive by securing and preparing initial housing, greeting refugees at the airport, enrolling children in school, and helping adults to find employment. 

Most importantly, sponsor groups offer a sense of welcome, belonging, and inclusion for families that have left far more than their worldly goods behind—they’ve left behind friends, families, and the social networks that help us thrive. These shared acts of welcome bring communities together while making it easier for refugees to adjust to life in the United States. 

You may not know where to start to recruit members for your Private Sponsor Group, and that’s okay! We encourage you to think about how you might identify others in your area that could be interested in welcoming a newcomer refugee. When forming your team, ask:

  1. Who is the most hospitable person you know?
  2. Who brings dinner when you’re sick?
  3. Who would invite a new neighbor for dinner?
  4. Who has a truck and is the first to help with moving?

Each member of a Private Sponsor Group brings unique skills and the ability to deliver core private sponsorship services. In forming your group, think about the strengths of each member and how they might contribute to the structure and roles needed to successfully welcome a newcomer.

As you approach your networks to get involved, you might be surprised to find that more often than not, people in your community have been waiting for someone to present an opportunity like this to make a meaningful impact in the lives of others. Don’t be discouraged if not everyone you speak with is able to join your initial group of five—there are many other ways to engage them through fundraising, helping to set up housing, or simply being a friend to the refugee newcomer family after they arrive.

You already have the most important skill you need to succeed—knowledge about daily life in your community. And, we are here to help! Check out the Welcome Corps page on our website where you will find helpful information, links, and videos. Submit an interest form and we will guide you each step of the way!