Youth ambassadors help refugees settle in Colorado

World Today

U.S. Military Police walk past Afghan refugees at the Village at the Ft. McCoy U.S. Army base on Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021 in Ft. McCoy, Wis. The fort is one of eight military installations across the country that are temporarily housing the tens of thousands of Afghans who were forced to flee their homeland in August after the U.S. withdrew its forces from Afghanistan and the Taliban took control. (Barbara Davidson/Pool Photo via AP)


Hafedh Alfarttoosi and his family arrived in Denver from Iraq last year just as the pandemic began to take hold in this country. Talk about timing. Reda Meharzi, a resident of the area, was among the first people they met.

“He immediately brought us a huge box of supplies filled with food and necessities and he would do that every single week, straight to our door. He’d pick it up and bring it to us while we didn’t have much.”

22-year-old Meharzi was assigned as youth ambassador to the refugee family, as part of the local Muslim Youth for Positive Impact organization’s Adopt-a-Family program. 

“Reda was always there at any moment that you needed him regardless of how big or how small the situation was. If I called him to say my wife was sick and I needed someone to take her to the emergency room, he was there to take us at any time of the day.”

Refugees arriving in the U.S., those from Afghanistan being the latest and most high-profile, often find themselves overwhelmed, trying to adjust to a new culture and ways of doing things that are completely different from what they’re used to.

“Most of these people already have low morale and have very little hope.”
“They’re already come and they’ve lost a lot.”
“The U.S. is a very big place, the U.S. is a huge country, so it’s easy to get lost here.”

“Here in Colorado, and in many other states, resettlement agencies connect refugees with an array of experts who help them find housing, find jobs, help them put food on the table.”

“How do we set people up for success over the long term so that they may contribute in the ways we know all immigrants do and they can quickly give back to the communities that welcome them.”

Meharzi, who speaks Arabic, has guided Alfarttoosi through financial documents and applications. Other volunteers have provided English tutoring and helped newcomers study for driving exams. Things Americans take for granted every day.

“America has a lot of laws, America has many different regulations. So it’s important that we have someone that can stand by us and help us integrate properly rather than feel abandoned.”

A new group of youth ambassadors is being trained now to assist some of the one to two thousand Afghan refugees who are expected to eventually land in Colorado.

“When I was told what we would be doing I realized that I think this is something important to do as a good human.”

“Reda I consider him as more than someone from the organization but rather as a friend and a brother and a friend of the family.”

And a lifeline that newly arriving refugees will be relying on as they break bread with new friends and start up lives in America pretty much from scratch.