GREEN BAY (NBC 26) — Tens of thousands of Afghans, like Abdullah, said goodbye to their families a few months ago.
“My father was crying," he recalled. "Relatives were crying, mother was crying. That's my last experience from my country.”
Abdullah is no longer living in fear for his life here in Green Bay, he said. His biggest worry is the safety of his family.
“I fear that if their identities are revealed, and somehow the regime finds that one of their family members was working with the U.S. government in a very infamous unit, then god forbid, they would be killed," he said. “I feel guilty, I feel powerless, every day, every hour.”
“I had the decision to choose to stay with my family, friends and keep my job, or to survive," he said.
Both men had never imagined how welcomed they would feel in Green Bay.
“What I want to do is to stay here for a long time," said Ali. "Because it's a good place, good people that live here. They're so kind, and that's what I like. It's not a matter of place, it’s a matter of the people, how they're treating you.”
One of the biggest factors in that warm welcome was Sayed Wardak, an Afghan who has lived in Wisconsin for six years.
“When they see me, the first thing, they're like, 'Oh god, thank god that you're here and you're working with them. Now our life will be easier.'"
Wardak has taken on the role of interpreter for our new neighbors.
“Before meeting Sayed, I was in a hotel for a week, and I didn't get to see anybody from my country," said Abdullah. "And I was very frustrated, and I was even planning to move back to another state where there are other Afghans, but after meeting Sayed, like, he made me change my mind. Now I'm thinking to stay here for long term, and one of the biggest reasons is Sayed.”
Right now, Catholic Charities is trying to accommodate housing needs as more large families have arrived.
“We have families in temporary housing," said Karmen Lemke, Director of Catholic Charities. "And with the Packers playoffs coming back to town, we're going to move them out of their Airbnbs, their hotels. We need to get them into more stable housing, so we're just doing a plea to the community to help us identify housing for our largest families.”
They’re in need of four 3-5 bedroom units between now and next Thursday. You can find more information on helping and volunteering here.