Nesar, a 38-year-old Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) holder and a legal permanent resident, now lives in Sacramento, CA. Amongst his many talents, he speaks English, Dari, Pashto, Farsi, Hindi and Urdu fluently.
Most of the individuals served by Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS) Refugee Resettlement Services (RRS) hold SIV status, meaning they typically worked as translators and interpreters for at least one year on behalf of the U.S. government in Afghanistan or Iraq. Because of their association with the U.S., their lives are often in grave danger, forcing them and their families to flee.
Why do SIV holders matter? “Any veteran who served overseas will tell you that our mission, and sometimes our lives, depend on the interpreters, translators, and other local allies,” Veterans for American Ideals states. “They stood alongside us-at great risk to their own lives.”
Prior to resettling in Sacramento, Nesar worked in various U.S. government-funded organizations such U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Ministry of Agriculture of Afghanistan and State University of New York in the Afghanistan Parliamentary Assistance Project on behalf of USAID. He holds 14 years of experience working with the U.S. government. He started receiving death threats, which led him to make a difficult decision to move to the U.S. with his wife and three children. They arrived to Sacramento on October 6, 2016, after a 16-hour flight.
After they landed, they met SFBFS’ RRS staff Rocio Gonzalez and Nematullah Sarvary, who welcomed them with open arms. RRS already secured Nesar’s family an apartment and provided furniture, household items and food. Upon first walking into their fully-furnished apartment, Nesar was blown away. “This is my new home and my new country now,” he thought. RRS also invited the new family to a holiday party for refugees, hosted in SFBFS’ community room. This gave them a chance to meet other refugees living in the area and make them feel more connected to their new community.
“It is not easy for SIVs and refugees to resettle in a new community, to be able to secure a permanent job and become self-sufficient in the U.S., even when they are highly-skilled professionals and fluent in English like Nesar,” says Rocio Gonzalez, SFBFS’ Refugee Resettlement Manager. “Nesar is a real example of motivation and perseverance. His persistence, skills, professionalism and abilities have been the keys to success.”
Though Nesar was already familiar with American culture through his previous jobs, he and his wife attended SFBFS’ Cultural Orientation workshops to make the transition in their new lives a smooth one. During the orientation, they learned about U.S. laws, education, calling 911 and other emergency numbers, purchasing culturally-appropriate food, paying for utilities and applying for discounts. The biggest culture shock Nesar experienced was being asked to be physically present while his wife was in labor in the delivery room, giving birth to their fourth child. In Afghanistan, the father is normally not present when their wives are in labor. Nesar felt extremely blessed to witness the birth of his daughter on July 24, 2018.
In addition to providing housing and food, RRS staff helped Nesar and his family apply for social security cards, CalFresh, English as a Second Language classes, career workshops and enroll his children in school. To this day, he still reaches out to the team whenever he needs help.
With his Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration and years of experience, Nesar secured entry-level positions in Sacramento including Security Guard Chief Lead and Machine Operator at Blue Diamond. In December of 2017, he started his dream job as a Procurement and Facility Specialist at Rural Community Assistance Corporation (RCAC). RRS is one of SFBFS’ many programs and services that helps move individuals toward self-sufficiency and financial independence by guiding newly arrived families resettle in the U.S. and giving them the resources to thrive.
For more information about RRS, click here.