Afghan people sit as they wait to leave the Kabul airport in Kabul in August, 2021 after a stunningly swift end to Afghanistan’s 20-year war, as thousands of people mobbed the city’s airport trying to flee the Taliban’s return. Wakil Kohsar | AFP via Getty Images

Afghan people sit as they wait to leave the Kabul airport in Kabul in August, 2021 after a stunningly swift end to Afghanistan’s 20-year war, as thousands of people mobbed the city’s airport trying to flee the Taliban’s return. Wakil Kohsar | AFP via Getty Images

Sponsorship team working to bring Afghan family to Campbell River

Family has a long history of working with the Canadian and American armed forces

By Michelle Downey

Almost a year ago I asked myself – how can I watch the women in Afghanistan suffer just because they are women? I searched within myself to see if I could make some difference and asked aloud, if there is anything I might do, please give me the strength and ability to help.

A year later, I am part of an Afghan sponsorship team in Campbell River where we are working to help a family of 17 close knit Afghan family members, full of women and small children suffering under a Taliban regime, come to our welcoming community. This family has a long history of working with the Canadian and American armed forces. Their brother was an interpreter who thankfully escaped to the USA with his family after being shot. Their father was killed by the Taliban last July and their entire family is in constant danger of being attacked and killed by the unending Taliban tortuous behaviour.

How did we learn of this family in need of a safe journey to Canada? The connection is from a long time school friend Spencer Sekyer, who went to Afghanistan many years ago to teach in one of the schools there. He became friends with both this family and the school’s head teacher’s family. He has shown me their sincere need to escape the dangers of Afghanistan. He is currently helping the family that he taught with, who became his close friends. The husband is a human rights lawyer, the wife a teacher of girls. Last year, when the wife had boiling water thrown on her by the Taliban, he went to help them escape to safety in Pakistan. As he works to help sponsor them to come to Canada, he continues to face many barriers that make one question our country’s intent to help those who truly need our help in this country. He is fighting to have them secure visas as their lives are still in danger in Pakistan, six months after escaping.

The family we are working to help include a young man who has become head of the family after his father was killed. He is working desperately to escape danger by moving frequently, while trying to secure passports and visas, while trying to find food and shelter, knowing his pregnant wife will need a safe place to give birth in a few short months. His young teenage sister is now in his care, along with her teenage brother and his widowed mother. Is he worried how he will continue to keep them safe as he searches for safe passage to Pakistan with so many unknowns that come with that escape? The Taliban death threat letters are proof that he needs to keep his sister safe as they threaten to take her to marry one of their men.

His other young sisters are also vulnerable and in danger, as one had their husband, a businessman selling goods to Canadian Forces, escape to Pakistan rather than be murdered, the other only 21 years old, pregnant and with a young husband and child. This family is one that is close knit and wants to stay together.

Where do we come into this picture? We have been working since January to seek sponsorship and work to help them under refugee and the government’s special Afghan project, which they indeed qualify for. What is difficult at this time is that the project’s capacity has been reached and our application may be ignored. Thankfully, we have been approved for refugee sponsorship for the nine family members that are in the most danger. The road ahead for this family will include many unknowns as we work to help them access Pakistan visas and seek refuge there as we wait for our Canadian government to approve their sponsorship and get them to Canada. This can potentially take up to two years. The hope is to try to sponsor the additional two young families when possible, if our government does not follow through with the special afghan project.

The Aman Lara group in Canada has been formed to help Afghan people escape to safety. They have Canadian veterans that served in Afghanistan working intel to help thousands of Afghan people escape to Pakistan. We are thankful that they have been helping us very willingly and their hands-on approach is amazing.

What we need to help our family seek safety in another country such as Pakistan or Tajikistan initially and then in our community of Campbell River are the funds to sponsor them and help them with food and shelter while in refuge. We will be starting to fundraise the amount of $45,000 which fulfills the rest of our commitment to Mennonite Central refugee sponsorship agreement.

Our first upcoming event is a by-donation community garage sale at the Christian Life Fellowship Church parking lot in Campbell River June 25 at 8 a.m. We are seeking donations to help make this a successful fundraiser.

If you would like to contribute to our sponsorship, your donation is fully tax receiptable. If you go online to CLF church website in Campbell River, go to the giving tab, click on Afghan refugee giving and it is easy and quick to make a donation of your choice.

We welcome questions and additions to our sponsor team! Contact Michelle Downey at rmdowney1@gmail.com or 250-830-8262 if you have any questions.