While living in Afghanistan, Homayoon Ghiasi worked with Americans in an American-run international health group. Because of this, he says he was threatened by insurgents in the local Taliban who threatened to kill him. Ghiasi escaped from his village and applied for a special immigration visa that was provided by the U.S. Embassy. This February, Ghiasi arrived in the United States with his wife and three kids. Their first point of contact was Theresa Samuel-Boko, program manager of the refugee resettlement program at Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County. Ghiasi shared his story at a June 4 Catholic Charities fundraiser for refugees held at the Kona Kai Swim & Racquet Club.
“Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County has been working to resettle refugees for the last 33 years. In these 33 years, our organization has resettled over 7,000 refugees,” says Samuel-Boko. “The purpose of the event was to raise funds to support newly arriving refugees to our area. Those who were interested in supporting the program either gave funds or offered to volunteer. Volunteers we are looking for include those who can provide cultural orientation and introduce others to American culture.”
“We are so thankful that [Catholic Charities] helped us during the first days after we came here,” Ghiasi says. “When we arrived at the San Jose airport, Theresa took us from the airport to the nearest motel and we stayed there for the night. At the Catholic Charities office, Theresa gave us an orientation about living in the United States. Also, she gave me a welcome money check. For 22 days, my family and I stayed at my brother’s apartment in Tracy. When I found an apartment, Catholic Charities issued a deposit check for us. Currently we are living in Stockton.”
Samuel-Boko also helped Ghiasi enroll in a government sponsored food and medical program, and she brought furniture and dining utensils to his family.
“I’m a doctor with a degree in medicine from Afghanistan and I have a master’s degree in public health from the Netherlands, ” Ghiasi says. “Since I worked for 15 years in management and administration of health projects, any kind of job related to this is something I’m interested in. I also hope to make some American friends.”
“Here in Santa Clara County, we are resettling refugees from Iraq and Afghanistan who are nationals of these two countries. They are called special immigrant visa recipients because they are nationals of their countries who supported the U.S. military overseas and they worked as interpreters, translators and contractors,” Samuel-Boko says. “In past years, there have been refugees this organization supported from all parts of the world including Vietnam, Bosnia, Kosovo, Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, the Congo, Burma and Bhutan.”