In August of 2021, the Afghan government collapsed after the Taliban took control of Kabul, following the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country. Since that time, over 80,000 Afghans have been evacuated. For Shakera Rahimi, an Afghan refugee who came to the United States in 2014, this was a wake- up call and the beginning of a new chapter in her life; one where she fights to help her community.
Afghan Alliance Coordinator at Luminus
Her journey to the United States
From 2002 to 2014, Shakera Rahimi worked closely with the U.S. government and US aid organizations on maternal and child health initiatives at teaching hospitals in Kabul, Afghanistan. Shakera was granted a Special Immigrant Visa to bring her family to safety in the United States in 2014. Throughout the past 7 years in the United States, she faced many challenges, especially relating to her professional career. Through determination and perseverance, she was able to overcome the obstacles that came her way. She is now actively working to help the Afghan community.
Her Initial Struggles
Even though she was a licensed physician in Afghanistan, Shakera had a difficult finding a job in the medical field after her arrival. As foreign medical licenses are typically not accepted in the United States, it became clear that she needed to return to college if she wanted to resume working in the medical field. It was incredibly difficult for her to have to “restart” her education as an adult, especially after having many years of previous experience as a physician. She said, “It was not easy balancing work, college, and taking care of my kids.”
Where did she find strength in difficult times?
Shakera and her family were welcomed with open arms by their host family and community in the U.S. She shared that they were always there when she needed them, which helped her family to stand on their own feet. Having such a considerate and helpful support system really impacted how she was able to navigate her life in her new environment. She cherishes all the people who were there for her when she needed it the most and those who contributed to her growing desire to help other Afghans.
Her work as the Afghan Alliance coordinator at Luminus
Until recently, Shakera was working as a surgical assistant at various teaching hospitals in Maryland. But when over 80,000 Afghans were airlifted to the US last summer, she realized that her firsthand understanding of the refugee experience, and her previous experience in supporting refugee resettlement would allow her to be of unique assistance to the incoming Afghans. She is passionate about working for and with refugees and is happy to be working with the Afghan Alliance through Luminus.
Her long-term goals
When asked about her long-term goals, Shakera did not take long to come up with an answer. She aims to help Afghans families be able to stand on their own feet and to give them advice and direction based on her personal experiences. She says her goal is “to support Afghans to start their new lives as Americans.”
Her advice for other immigrants
“Education is key to success.” She strongly believes that higher education will provide the opportunities for immigrants to fully reach their goals, in their personal as well as professional lives. Especially for older immigrants, going back to school can be scary, but she believes that “you can go back to school at any age.” Shakera encourages others like herself to bring positive change to this country through their education and community service.
What she has learned
“I’ve learned many things through my own experience having to flee my country, and many more things as I tried to assist other refugees. Here are just a few:
- When you are forced to flee your country for the safety of your family, it is extremely difficult to leave behind extended family and good friends, your culture, cherished belongings, and favorite places that hold precious memories.
- It is challenging to start life all over again in a new country where the language, culture and expectations are so different, and where your previous education, experience and qualifications may not be recognized – especially if you are still dealing with the trauma of violence, threats, sudden separation, and great loss.
- Can you imagine if, tomorrow, you suddenly learned that you and your family would be in grave danger if you remained in the US, and you had to leave quickly, with no time to prepare, and only whatever you could put in your backpacks, never to see your home or extended family or friends again?
- Can you imagine that when you arrived in the country that allowed you to come, no employer recognized your credentials, so you had to start again at the bottom of the job ladder, had to learn not just a new language but also an entirely different writing system, and that the only place you could afford to live the first year was in a dangerous neighborhood?
These are the typical experiences of a refugee. But for a refugee, the safety and security of their family is of primary importance.”