Team Feature: Marzia Afzal
Our team at Refugee Care Collective leads through their care for those who are displaced and resettled, as well as through their collective experience serving vulnerable communities. Get to know those on our team who make our work what it is!
Marzia began working for Refugee Care Collective in June of 2022. As a Programs Specialist, she identifies and works closely with resettled families and youth who need mentorship and support, providing in-home visits as well as meaningful support to mentors.
After conflict forced Marzia and her family to leave their country, she worked with prominent global non-profits to support and empower refugees in their times of need. Marzia’s experience has included:
- Working as a nurse in a children’s hospital for refugees
- Instructing a women’s health education training program focusing on the prevention of epidemics, safe water, disease control, women’s maternal health, and more
- Training teachers on working with low literacy students
- Participating in a variety of other refugee programs including English language learning and women’s vocational training programs
Prior to Refugee Care Collective, she served as a Refugee Services case manager in Portland, Oregon for Afghan families. She shared some of her thoughts with us below.
From your experience, what do refugee families need when they first arrive?
Access to basic services and assistance, including food, clean water, housing, medical attention, and education. These are the most basic things they need to restart their lives here, and we can help them overcome cultural barriers, so their adjustment is as easy as possible.
What do you want people to know about people who are resettled?
I want them to know that resettlement gives people a chance to live a decent life. Resettled people are looking for a second chance, opportunities to have a decent life, a decent education. Refugees cannot go back to their countries easily, but if we help them, they can become contributing members of their new communities.
Would you share a story about a family that you’ve provided support to?
I helped a refugee family with the jobs for their father, and then supported them with their medical emergencies and USCIS (U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services) interview, connected them to English language learning programs, as well as to other resources. They see me as a member of their family now, share all their concerns, and ask me for advice. It feels very heartwarming.
Would you share a story about a family that impacted you?
A lot of these families have sad stories to share. Some left behind their young children or sent their young children here with their relatives for a better life. A family that I was helping recently had to leave behind their one-month-old baby. They were trying to get a passport for the baby but because of the situation in the country they couldn’t. When I visited the mom, she was crying, not eating, and did not want to leave the house because she was thinking about her now 6-month-old baby. Her little 5-year-old sister is waiting for her sibling to come and play with her. As a mom hearing these stories, it makes me sad to think about the long-term effects on this family.
What do you want people to know about the community’s role in stepping in?
Refugees need help and support from the community. Let them know that they are welcomed. Employing or encouraging local businesses to employ refugees is also important. Give them a hand and a chance – you will not regret it and they will never forget those who helped them.
What else would you like to speak to?
Working with refugees has its challenges and unknowns which need a lot of patience, but at the end, when you look at the results and lifelong friendships, it is priceless.
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