From Afghan Arrival to Support Worker: Safi's Story

Safi, from Afghanistan, served as an interpreter for the British. Through the UK Government's Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP), he and his family were resettled in Bradford in 2015. He now works with our partner Horton Housing Association to support Afghans who have fled the Taliban, and are starting new lives here. Safi tells us his story:

"Back in Afghanistan I served as an interpreter with the British army for three years. Myself and my wife and children applied for a Visa to come to the UK as part of the ARAP scheme and waited for six months for it to arrive.

When we arrived in 2015, we came straight to Bradford, and have lived here since. For the first year we were just settling in. Horton Housing Association, World Jewish Relief’s partner in Bradford, helped me with lots of things including organising housing, applying for benefits, and finding employment. I was also supported by the local Job Centre. All of this made a real difference.

Eventually I started volunteering for Horton Housing Association, supporting other Afghans arriving through the ARAP scheme. After this, I assisted Syrian Refugees who were arriving through the Government resettlement schemes, for three years, until the pandemic brought this work to a halt.

When the Afghan regime collapsed and the Taliban took over this summer, the ARAP scheme suddenly restarted, and almost overnight Afghan families started arriving in the UK. I started working in the bridging hotel as a case worker. I help families around the hotel, booking GP appointments, getting things from the shops, taking their clothes to the launderette. I help them set up bank accounts, apply for benefits and enroll their children into schools. These tasks are hard enough if you do speak English; if you don’t, they are near impossible without this support. Some families will be in the hotel for a long time, so I take them out so they can get to know the area.

Saffiyeh 2

My work with Horton Housing Association is very meaningful for me. When I look at the families I am supporting, I know how they are feeling, because I have experienced the same thing. Like me, they have left their homes and their loved ones and moved to a new country. I started supporting these people because I knew how important it was.

These families, in some ways, have it easier than we did when we arrived. Mine was one of the first Afghan families to come to Bradford so we had no friends, no family, and no community here. I didn’t have a support worker who spoke my language and understood my culture and where I had come from. The families arriving now have a community here ready to welcome them, and people like me providing help in their own language.

In the hotel, we try and keep the children stimulated. Thanks to World Jewish Relief, the children have a busy programme of activities which means they don’t get bored, even though this environment is far from ideal for them. World Jewish Relief have also provided English language classes for teenagers and women, which is important. With this crucial assistance, things have improved a lot for Afghans since the hotel was first set up.

Hearing about what is happening in Afghanistan is so sad. For 20 years, we have been trying to fix and rebuild our country, but now everything we worked towards is gone. This is so hard for Afghans, both in the country and those living elsewhere. It’s been a bad time for us, but we still have some hope.

I have family back in Afghanistan, and I have applied for them to come to the UK. We are still waiting to hear what will happen.

I am so proud of my six children, who are aged between 20 and eight years old. I hope that they will continue to study here and, with this education and all the opportunities afforded to them they will reach their potential, more so than would have been possible if they’d grown up in Afghanistan. They can do whatever they want to."

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