January 17, 2023
Support and Services Help Afghan Refugees Making Iowa Home
On August 15, 2021, Afghanistan's capital city of Kabul was captured by the Taliban after a major insurgent offensive that began in in the spring. The Afghan government quickly fell and thousands of residents rushed to the airport to flee the country. By the end of that month, the U.S. withdrew the last of its armed forces stationed there.
Nick Bibi Adil’s husband, Abdullah, was working with the U.S. Army in Kabul and she recalls the urgent phone call she received. “When the U.S. decided to withdraw, they told all those employees helping them to go with them; otherwise, the Taliban will not let you live,” remembers Nick. EveryStep outreach specialist and interpreter Feroz Rasheedzai, also formerly from Afghanistan, interprets for Nick in her native Pashto language. “We were in our city and he told me to come quickly to Kabul, to the airport, because we don’t have much time before we have to take off.
“The Taliban took over the country, so we came to the U.S.,” Nick says simply.
When Nick, Abdullah and their children arrived in the U.S., they didn’t have anywhere to go. The International Rescue Committee typically tries to resettle refugees with relatives already living in the U.S. “We didn’t have any relatives here, so we said, ‘wherever you want to send us, we will go there.’ That’s why they sent us to Iowa.”
EveryStep offers outreach and support to refugees through the Refugee Immigrant Guide (RIG) program. EveryStep interpreters provide interpretation, cultural understanding, advocacy and help navigating programs administered through the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services and the court system. Nick and Abdullah were connected with EveryStep through this program.
Brianne Emunah is a case manager with EveryStep’s Healthy Start program. She works with Nick and Abdullah’s family, which includes seven children under the age of 11, and three under age 5. One of those children is an infant. “One of the main things we do is education,” says Brianne. “We provide information on parenting, immunizations, well child checks and developmental screenings.”
But that’s not the end of the assistance EveryStep provides to families like Nick and Abdullah’s.
When Nick was pregnant with their youngest child, EveryStep nurse Stephanie Van Roekel helped her understand what it was like to have a baby in the U.S., and visited after the baby was born to check on her physical and mental health. Abdullah is involved with EveryStep’s FathersMatter program, where he met Larry Young, who oversees the program. Larry became aware that Abdullah was being overcharged for his car insurance and made sure that problem was fixed.
Another example of EveryStep’s assistance is the help provided when it was discovered Nick and Abdullah’s baby’s date of birth was listed incorrectly with the Department of Health and Human Services. This prevented insurance from covering the baby’s doctor appointments, so EveryStep helped correct the mistake. Brianne helped Abdullah apply for jobs and he now has full-time employment.
This holiday season, Brianne made sure Nick and Abdullah’s family, as well as the two other Afghan refugee families she works with, are signed up for EveryStep’s Adopt a Family program.
“We really appreciate Brianne. As much as she has ability, she helps us,” says Nick. “When there was a problem, we could call her and she would come. We asked her questions. She made all our appointments everywhere. We can count on her like we would count on family. We were blind, but she took our hands to go everywhere we needed.”
The help EveryStep provides to Nick and Abdullah is just one example of what EveryStep’s staff and programs do every day, all across Iowa. As a nonprofit, EveryStep relies on gifts and donations to ensure this work continues. If you would like to be part of EveryStep’s mission, visit https://www.everystep.org/donate.
If you or someone you know is struggling to find the support they need, please contact EveryStep at 515-558-9946 or complete the commitment-free, confidential “Find Care” form on EveryStep’s website at www.everystep.org/find-care. EveryStep staff will follow up with a phone call to answer your questions and provide assistance.