It has been a very long and difficult road for Afghan refugee Ramin Nuri, but thanks to the efforts of the West Kootenay Friends of Refugees (WKFoR), Ramin is now in a much better place.
The Rossland group was instrumental in helping Ramin leave the Middle East and get settled in the U.S.
After fleeing Afghanistan and then Iran, Ramin was completing high school in Turkey when he met Rossland resident, Kate Mahoney, who does contract work for the United Nations.
He impressed her so much that she kept in contact and eventually suggested that WKFoR sponsor him back in the Golden City.
Mahoney and WKFoR had completed the extensive paperwork when COVID hit and cancelled all refugee sponsorships.
The Friends of Refugees continued fundraising to help the 20-year-old emigrate to Rossland, but ultimately, he had no choice but to take an expedited offer he couldn’t refuse — a chance to start a new life in the U.S.
“When the situation in Afghanistan blew up,” explained longtime WKFoR member Jan Micklethwaite. “The U.S. wanted refugees like Ramin who had already been vetted so he was offered the opportunity to leave Turkey, where the situation for refugees was worsening. Of course he chose to take the offer.”
Ramin left for Phoenix, Ariz. in September. However, according to Canadian refugee regulations, the WKFoR funds raised could not go to Ramin because he was no longer emigrating to Canada.
What’s more, the resettlement services in Phoenix proved wanting, and he had little contact with his case worker or support through the initial weeks.
“Day after day went by with no contact. Alone and confused, he reached out to the Rossland coordinators of WKFoR and explained his situation.”
Fortunately, Rossland Mayor Kathy Moore, who is also a founding member of WKFoR, has a son, Nick Blue, who lives in Phoenix.
“He (Nick) immediately reached out to Ramin, took him under his wing and established a friendship,” said Micklethwaite. “As well, Ramin attended services at a local church and mentioned to us that he had been warmly welcomed by the pastor.”
WKFoR didn’t stop there, but contacted the church and its Pastor Jon. Once they convinced the pastor they were indeed part of a benevolent refugee society founded in the mountains of the West Kootenay, Pastor Jon rallied his congregation.
Members looked for ways to enroll Ramin in community college courses in the fall, a priority for the resilient émigré. A family from the congregation also offered him a free room in their home for six months.
This gave Ramin an opportunity to move out of the sketchy neighbourhood he had been placed in, and offer him a daily chance to practice his English.
Nick’s wife, Adralyn, also did some research and located a settlement organization in Phoenix called the Welcome to America Project.
Ramin had joined the workforce immediately, starting out as a dishwasher, but thanks to his new-found connections is now working with developmentally challenged adults.
“I don’t get tired here,” Ramin told WKFoR. “I enjoy spending time with these residents.”
The efforts of WKFoR were instrumental in making Ramin’s transition that much more bearable after a traumatic lifetime of displacement and flight. Their next greatest challenge is to help his mother and sisters leave Iran and get to somewhere safe.
“We are so pleased that even though it has been a challenge to put some of these pieces in place, working from small town BC, it wasn’t impossible thanks to the fact that there are good people everywhere,” added Micklethwaite.
“While we are sorry that he didn’t come here first, we are encouraged that at least he’s safe and has some help.
“He tells us he can’t wait to visit Rossland and meet all his friends in person.”
• The WKFoR are currently raising funds for three sponsorships: a young Eritrean man and a refugee from the notorious Manus Island camp in Australia. They also have offered to sponsor an individual or family through the Canadian government’s initiative to bring 40,000 vulnerable Afghans to Canada.
Donations to WKFoR can be made care of Box 652, Rossland, B.C. V0G 1Y0 or visit their Facebook page for more information.