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Previous refugees reach out to new Afghan refugees in Utah

Posted at 10:03 PM, Nov 13, 2021

SALT LAKE CITY — A group of Afghans who have lived in Utah for a few years are now turning around to help the new refugees coming to the Beehive State.

Sayed Karini has a full house, adorned in Afghan rugs and cushions.

The two-bedroom apartment is home for Karini and his five kids.

"We have a good life, better than the Taliban regime," said Karini.

Karini came as a refugee five years ago. Previously, he had worked for the U.S. Military for 11 years in Afghanistan.

"Now, I try to help as a volunteer for new volunteers coming into the United States," he said.

In between his work and family life, Karini can be found helping three to four families a day.

"I check out what they need — if they need to go shopping or if they need to call or translate," he said.

A new refugee Karini has been helping arrived a month ago from Afghanistan — and though this refugee was a security guard for the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan for 16 years, his English is limited.

"I’m teaching him most of the rules, the cultures, how to survive," said Karini.

Lessons Karini learned when he lived in England — his English came from listening to coworkers and conversations on the street.

Karini has never learned English in a formal classroom, so although he speaks fluently, but is still learning to read and write.

The most common request Karini receives from refugees is to help them find a prayer rug.

"It’s the first item everyone is looking for," said Karini.

Hanifa Javadi was also an Afghan refugee five years ago.

"It's feeling like you lost everything and you're a nobody," she said.

She remembers the first night she came to Utah, and an Iranian woman helped her feel at home.

"I saw her and asked her how long she lived here, and she said for five years. And I thought, 'One day if I can translate for somebody else, that can be great for me too,'" said Javadi.

Not only does Javadi help translate, but she also created a sewing business, bringing 26 Afghan refugee women together to make custom clothes.

"I help them have a job to earn money. Because they couldn’t work outside of the home, I give them a job in the home," she said.

It's a dream to not only have money but to leave the house after evening.

"In Afghanistan, the woman is totally different," said Javadi. "Here, I’m not a woman — here, I’m human."