ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Imagine yourself in an environment where people speak a language you don’t understand and look completely different from you.

That is what Ahmad Ibrahimi and other refugees had to face when they first came to America.

When President Biden decided to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan a year ago, the future was left unknown for many local Afghans who had worked for the US and US allies. Ahmad was one of them.

As a former employee at the US embassy in Afghanistan, Ahmad was forced to leave his home when the Taliban took over the country.

“The day the thing happened; the Taliban captured almost the whole country… we were advised that we would soon evacuate. We were told to be ready, and it will happen soon,” he said. 

When they fled to the US Ahmad and his family were able to obtain help from local organizations like Rochester Refugee Resettlement Services. The RRRS is a non-profit local organization that works with refugees from all over the world and helps them to get settled here in the City of Rochester.

Djifa Kother, the founder and the CEO of the Rochester Refugee Resettlement Services, said that unlike organizations such as the Catholic Charities Family and Community Services who are devoted to helping refugees directly for the first three months upon their arrival to America, RRRS focuses on filling the gap of any need the new Americans might have that are not covered by other agencies.

The organization provides several services including housing, education, and job training. 

The housing program at RRRS seeks to help new Americans to settle in the Rochester neighborhood with safe and affordable housing. The program relies on volunteers and community donations as many of the houses were upgraded, rehabbed, and maintained by groups like Eagle Scouts, college community service teams, retired skilled craftsmen, etc. The houses are also equipped with appliances such as stoves and refrigerators that are also donated. 

Likewise, the education program at RRRS depends on the collaborative efforts of volunteers who teach refugees how to speak English and how to drive. As the English language stands to be the greatest barrier for many new Americans, the English education program plays a significant role in helping them to fit in the community and adapt to their new lives.

While we celebrate the work of these local non-profit organizations, it is important to keep in mind the people who are still struggling in difficult situations. Ahmad’s sister worked in the government before the Taliban prohibited females from working.

When she tried to cross Afghanistan’s border to Pakistan, she was threatened by her husband, “Go home or else I’ll kill you.” Ahmad said his family who remained in Afghanistan were left jobless for a year and are currently struggling to obtain food as well as other necessities.

Hunger and poverty became the biggest challenges for them.

“If you didn’t work for a year, what would you eat? How would you continue living,” Ahmad said.

Amid growing humanitarian concerns around the world, the Biden Administration announced plans to increase the number of refugees admitted up to 125,000 for the year 2022. It was a significant expansion in numbers as the cap was 18,000 in the year of 2020 during the Trump Administration. As President Biden authorized an increase in the refugee admissions ceiling, organizations like RRRS worked to help those who needed their services. The success of these organizations depends on the collective work of the community.

Click here to find out what you can do locally to help refugees in Rochester.