Since the Taliban gained control of Afghanistan in the fall of 2021, an estimated 1.6 million people have fled the country. Among them are two women who settled in Broomfield, and are now on the path to becoming dental assistants.
“When we came here we had no job, no money, nothing,” Samira Dastgeer Ghani said. “We came from Afghanistan with two bags only, nothing more.”
Ghani and her husband, two children and her sister began the long and difficult journey on Aug. 15, 2021.
“From Afghanistan, we flew to Qatar. After 24 hours in Qatar we flew to Italy,” she explained. “We flew in huge military airplanes to Italy, where we stayed in a military camp for five days.”
From Italy, Ghani and her family traveled to the United States, where they landed in New Mexico. Ghani was among thousands of refugees in the Doña Ana Village, a camp on the New Mexico side of Fort Bliss outside El Paso, Texas. They spent three months there before finally flying to Colorado on Dec. 11.
“My uncle and cousins were living in Broomfield, so we came to their house and lived there for four months,” Ghani said.
Ghani struggled with things like enrolling her children in school, transportation and learning to drive and language barriers. Through the help of her family and the Broomfield Resettlement Task Force, Ghani and her family made a new life in Broomfield.
“I still had no job, and in Afghanistan I was a government employee at the archive in the Ministry of Mines,” Ghani said. “I had a good job and a degree, and I knew I wanted to do something good here.”
With the help of her friend and fellow Afghan refugee Manizha Ahmadi, Ghani applied and was accepted to the dental assistant program at the Emily Griffith Technical College, taking the first steps to build a career in dentistry in the U.S.
Ahmadi, who enrolled in the dental assistant program after completing English lessons, has a similar story to Ghani and her family.
“We arrived in the U.S. in January of 2022, and my sibling who lived in Broomfield helped us,” Ahmadi said.
Ahmadi and her family were also displaced from Afghanistan in 2021, and found themselves in Broomfield months later.
“I wanted to study this program to make a good life for myself and for my kids,” Ahmadi said. Along with her husband, Ahmadi and her two daughters have been living in Broomfield for the past year and a half.
“My husband has been so helpful in this time, and that’s been so important to me,” Ahmadi said. “I’ve met so many nice people through this and I’m very thankful.”
Among the individuals who helped Ahmadi and Ghani settle into their new lives in Broomfield were the volunteers at the Broomfield Resettlement Task Force.
“We are basically a branch and extension of the Lutheran Family Services and other resettlement agencies nearby. We support the families here in Broomfield and help them with things like housing, transportation or applying to Medicaid,” Heidi Henkel said.
Henkel is a Broomfield City Council member and the executive director of the task force, and has been volunteering since its inception in 2021.
The task force began by settling Ahmad Siddiqi, who served alongside Henkel’s husband, Scott, during his deployment in Afghanistan. Since helping Siddiqi and his family, the task force has grown to more than 50 volunteers.
“We started with settling families from Afghanistan, and now we’ve settled some from Ukraine as well,” Henkel said. “We’ve settled over 50 family members from Afghanistan and we just received a new family of four from Ukraine.”
With the help of the task force, Ghani and Ahmadi have completed their dental assistant program, and are now working at Dental Aid in Boulder.
“Refugees face huge barriers when trying to resettle, and we’re just trying to resettle them with dignity and equity,” Henkel said. “(Ahmadi and Ghani) are incredibly resilient, some of the most resilient people I’ve ever met.”
“I think it was really hard for them, waking up at 6 a.m. and taking the long bus ride to Denver for school, but at the end of the day, they both fled Afghanistan for the same reason, and that was to create a better life for their children,” Henkel said.