“From Kabul to California”
Meet Mariam. She is originally from Afghanistan but now resides in the US. She is inspiring, resilient and extremely hard-working.
In August 2021 the Taliban rolled into Kabul to take back control of the country. While the US and other countries withdrew, Mariam and thousands of other high-risk Afghans knew their time in Afghanistan was coming to an end. Many scrambled to leave the country for safer lands through any connections they had. Under the new leadership, girls would be denied more and more of the human rights they had fought for during the 20 years since the Taliban first fell. Under the new leaders, the freedom of women and girls would be rolled back to an archaic past where women cannot travel outside the home without a male escort, they cannot attend school beyond 6th grade, or even emerge from the home without being fully covered.
Mariam and her family were one of the fortunate ones. With a sister already living in the US, Mariam and her younger siblings and parents were granted visas to relocate to the US.
The year before Afghanistan fell, during the 2020 pandemic, I created an inter-cultural online community of teen girls from Afghanistan and Australia. It was called the Sisterhood. You can read more about the Sisterhood here. From 2020-2021 when the Sisterhood was active, 32 Australian and Afghan girls paired together to nurture a cross-cultural friendship. Mariam was one of our Afghan sisters from the Class of 2021.
Today, all but one of our Afghan sisters has made it out of Afghanistan. They are all pursuing more education and rebuilding their lives in their new host countries. Some are doing better than others. Some are with their families. Others are alone. Some still wait for a permanent living solution. One thing they all have in common – none plan to return to Afghanistan in the immediate future. The Sisterhood is now scattered across the US, Canada, Germany, and Pakistan, to name a few of the locations.
Mariam is the FIRST of the Afghan girls from the Sisterhood who I’ve met in person. I plan to meet as many of the girls from the Sisterhood as I can over the next many years, as the opportunities arise. Mariam and her family have relocated to California. We were able to meet on a hot summer day in June. She still finds it difficult to talk about her experience leaving her homeland, but she was willing to share some thoughts with me on her transition to life in the US.
You started at a new school once you moved here. Tell me about that.
School is interesting but also a struggle for international students. Language is harder than everything because it is the only thing you can communicate with others. But I like the friendship between the teachers and students, it feels like they have a strong connection. The teachers are so kind. My favourite teacher is Mary Roseen, she was there for me in hard times.
What is your hope for your future and your family’s? I just want them to be healthy, happy and safe and I want to be a person who can help people when they need it.
What advice to do you give to someone going through a hard transition in their life?
My advice for them is to be patient and be kind to themselves because at the end it will be just a memory.
What is something that keeps you positive on hard days? When I remember the days that I have been through it motivates me to be patient in hard days.
We finally met this year! What was it like to meet together and go on this mini-photoshoot? It was my dream to meet you in person, I am glad that life brought me here. It feels like magic when you meet the people who you first met online.
Thank you Mariam for sharing your story and spending a bit of time with me when I was in California. You have overcome so much. I wish you healing from the past and courage for the future. You have so much more life to live and love to give. We will meet again!