KSL Podcasts launches ‘Stranger Becomes Neighbor: Afghan Arrivals’
Aug 15, 2023, 1:49 PM | Updated: Aug 18, 2023, 4:22 pm
SALT LAKE CITY — KSL Podcasts has launched a six-part series exploring what happened to some of the families forced to flee their homes when the U.S. pulled out of Afghanistan.
On August 15, 2021, the world witnessed as a desperate sea of humanity rushed the Kabul airport. American military had begun mass evacuations from Afghanistan leaving many of their local allies behind to face the Taliban. More than 80,000 refugees eventually made their way to America where they faced other challenges.
“We wanted to know how well America delivered on its promise to help these new arrivals,” said award-winning journalist and podcast host Andrea Smardon. “Although grateful to have escaped almost certain oppression at home, they arrived here during a pandemic, an affordable housing shortage, and at a time when refugee agencies had been cut back to almost nothing.”
For the last two years, Smardon has followed their stories including the struggles of a young widow who served in a secret unit of the Afghan military working alongside U.S. special forces. Her need for affordable childcare made working at Walmart difficult. Another story follows a woman who was separated from her family at the Kabul airport and must now care for her younger sister and niece alone.
“I would say there is not a word to explain that feeling of leaving,” said the younger sister who wishes not to be identified because she still fears retribution from the Taliban. “It is so hard to experience that type of situation without any goodbye. You are just separated from your family, and you do not know when you will reunite.”
Designated as humanitarian parolees by the U.S. government, these families and individuals also face an uncertain immigration status while trying to make ends meet, adapt to a new culture, and become valued members of our communities.
“Refugees, they’re not here to come and take, but they are here to contribute to our economy, and they diversify our community,” said Aden Batar, Director of Migration and Refugee Services for Catholic Community Services of Utah. “They speak many languages. They bring a lot of rich culture.”
Listeners to the podcast will also find inspiration and hope in the determination of caring Americans who have chosen to share time and resources to help their new neighbors.
“Somehow, they are reaching deep to find incredible energy and commitment, testing the limits of what one person can do. Along the way, they discover what it means to create a community that feels caring and welcoming to all its residents, both new and old,” said Sheryl Worsley, Vice President of Podcasting for Bonneville, and KSL Podcasts.
Volunteer Jennie Hua said she initially planned on helping one family and ended up helping 50 families. “Each day, I would just wake up with thoughts in my mind of what I should do, or someone would text and ask me for help. And in all my interactions with them, I just felt more love than I gave,” said Hua.
More information about refugee volunteer opportunities with Catholic Community Services is available here.