A Safe Haven
Stevens Point community assists Afghan family
By Kris Leonhardt
STEVENS POINT – The Stevens Point community is assisting a local Afghan family, after they fled their homeland for safe haven in the area.
The family’s patriarch worked with the U.S. military for 12 years, identifying and disarming bombs.
As Afghanistan fell to Taliban control, Muhammad Karim was at the Kabul airport with the military trying to regain control for evacuation flights, (when) a group of Taliban militia came to their home, telling his wife to leave the house and let them take their car, guns, and other valuables; threatening the lives of the family if they did not comply.
After leaving their home, the couple lived at the Kabul airport and a camp in Italy, before making their way to the United States, with their six children, ranging from one year to 10 years of age.
They eventually landed in the Stevens Point area, where they became neighbors of Ariel Welling.
“Our new neighbors are Afghan refugees, recently resettled in Stevens Point after a long and treacherous journey escaping incredible danger in their former home,” Welling stated of the family. “You won’t find a more generous family.”
“When they were in Afghanistan, their home was the place that anyone coming to visit the city would come to stay. They always had guests, and they were always feeding and clothing them and providing transportation to wherever they needed to go.
“Muhammad Karim had a good, reliable income at a time when many people had a lot of trouble finding work to be able to support their families. With his salary from the U.S .Military, he provided all expenses for several families, and regularly helped out many others. Every time they cooked, they cooked more than they needed for themselves and their guests, in order to be able to deliver food to the neighbors who they knew couldn’t afford to feed their families.
“Now they are here in Stevens Point, having left behind everything, including their economic stability, they are no longer in the position to provide the support they did in the past to so many families. That is very hard for them, because those families are still asking them for help, and there is a perception in Afghanistan that once someone comes to the U.S., they are immediately wealthy.”
Welling said that while Karim now has a job with a local company, the cost to support a family of eight is much higher in the U.S.; however, they still find a way to help support families back home who have lost their breadwinner or need medical treatment.
She is currently trying to assist the family in purchasing a vehicle, now that Karim has obtained his driver’s license.
“They have truly become family to me, and I can’t imagine not doing whatever I am capable of in order to make their lives in Wisconsin as comfortable, joyful and safe as possible. They deserve this, and they deserve so much more,” she added.
With local assistance, a vehicle was recently purchased for the family.
“The goal was originally to fundraise until we could buy the vehicle outright, so the family wouldn’t need to take out a loan,” she explained. “That being said, having a vehicle was so important for their ability to accomplish day-to-day tasks without having to depend on others for transportation, so we decided to get the vehicle as quickly as we possibly could.
“They did have some savings they were able to dip into, and now my goal is to repay them for what they took out of their own savings. As you can imagine, with a family of eight, a single breadwinner, and a lot of family they feel responsible for supporting however possible in Afghanistan, every dollar is very precious.”
As of July 14, the community had raised all but $5,345.98 of the $19,000 needed for the vehicle. For more information, visit www.gofundme.com/f/wheels-for-independence-for-new-afghan-neighbors.