By Amir Khan, Communications Assistant
When describing what home means to her, Farkhonda Rajabe now thinks of Vancouver – but it took a long time to feel that way.
As an outspoken women’s rights advocate in Afghanistan, her work teaching leadership skills to Afghan women in rural areas and fundraising to build schools earned her public recognition, including the International Simorgh Peace Prize Awards. The Open Asia Foundation, an independent citizens’ non-profit, presents the peace prize to those who promote and support human rights initiatives in countries such as Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Iran.
However, the accolade also made her a target for threats. Fearing for her safety, she left her family behind in search of the place she now calls home, applying for asylum in Canada in 2017.
This journey wasn’t an easy one as she was separated from her family and struggled through the refugee claimant process. Once settled, her desire to help others led her to volunteer with MOSAIC, assisting newcomers with their conversation skills. This turned into a job with the MOSAIC engage program for English language learners – and she slowly started to feel at home in Canada.
“When I started working at MOSAIC, a new phase of life in Canada began for me. It was a totally different world. I kept changing my mind and ideas about this beautiful land and saw support from colleagues that I had never experienced before.”
From there, Farkhonda’s work came full circle. She is now part of MOSAIC’s Refugee Settlement and Integration team and works as the Coordinator for the Afghan Response initiative where she is responsible for overseeing and finalizing refugee applications. As part of the role, she looks forward to helping up to 650 refugees to find safety.
“Being a coordinator for this project is not just a position for me but something that perfectly aligns with my personal life as well. I know what it means to be a refugee in a country with no right to study or work, living with the fear of deportation every second, as my own family has gone through this. This life-saving MOSAIC project of sponsoring Afghan refugees meant more than anyone could ever imagine to the Afghan community in Metro Vancouver.”
On a matter that is also close to her heart, she is going through the process of privately sponsoring her own family so they can come to Canada. She says the relief of not having to constantly worry about their safety will make a huge difference in her day-to-day life, something she says is true for many newcomers.
“People can’t put 100% of themselves into their life in Canada when they are so worried about family back home – with my family here, I will be a better person for myself and my community, for my job, for [this] country.”
Ultimately to Farkhonda, ‘home’ is a complicated concept that has changed and expanded throughout the long journey from refugee claimant to permanent resident. Finding community here through friends and colleagues has made all the difference during the more difficult moments.
“Home means many things: peace, stability, family, and hope. It means we can see ourselves grow and try our best to make the most out of everything.”
If you are interested in supporting MOSAIC’s efforts for Afghan refugees, you can make a huge difference by donating to our Afghan Response Fund today!