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Staff Reflection: Celebrating Afghan refugee women and children through support

By Valerie Berta, Community Engagement Coordinator, Catholic Charities Refugee Services

Frishta Aslami And Baby A
Afghan Program Coordinator, Frishta Aslami, holds “Baby A”, born to an Afghan refugee mother shortly after arrival in Columbia, MO.

If you’re a Mom you know what I mean. Bad pregnancy symptoms. Taking care of children while carrying another. Wondering what tomorrow will bring.

Now picture running for your life at the same time. This Mom’s name cannot be disclosed because she fears for her family back home so I’ll call her B. She spent several weeks of her pregnancy fleeing for her life, at one time sleeping in a waterlogged tent.

B. is an Afghan Mom who is pregnant with a boy. She doesn’t know exactly how many months pregnant she is because she’s been away from home so long her sense of time is uncertain. When she was two months pregnant B. and her family, her husband, and their eleven children, fled Afghanistan when the Taliban took over. He husband worked as a trainer in the Special Forces with the U.S. military and that put the entire family at risk of being killed. Her husband’s father died shortly after they left.

The first camp B. and her family lived in was in Qatar, and it was only for three days and three nights. “It was so hot those three nights felt like three months,” she said. Somebody stole her shoes so she went barefoot. The family was then transferred to another camp, in Germany, where it was several days before sleeping cots were brought in. When it rained the tent would flood and they would all sleep in standing water. The third camp was on a military base in the U.S. and living conditions were much better, as was healthcare. B. got screened and checked.

In Afghanistan, all her children were born at home, with her mother-in-law assisting. “It was hard for me. Back home when you struggle with pregnancy symptoms you just have to put up with it,” B. said. Here in the U.S. she has had monthly checkups and feels better. Still, there is the worrying about family back home and not being able to do anything about it, and there is the displacement and the difficulties of cultural adaptation to life in this new and utterly foreign place.

B’s story is not unique. Here at Catholic Charities Refugee Services, we have resettled more than 270 Afghan evacuees in the past three months, and many mothers and pregnant women. Twelve women among our clients are either pregnant or have recently given birth, and we have a special connection with at least one baby, A.: one of our case managers, Frishta Aslami, an Afghan refugee herself, cut the umbilical cord and named the baby! Frishta is a proud auntie, and we at Refugee Services are proud of our services and our clients’ resilience. So we would like to do something special for them and we hope you join us.

Catholic Charities Refugee Services, MU International Programs, and MU Healthcare are proud to partner in sponsoring a baby shower for Afghan refugee women, our new neighbors, and invite you to donate towards making it a joyful success.

If you can contribute to our baby shower, we warmly invite you to view the list of needed items and sign up to support new and expecting mothers!