By Amanda Socci
On September 19, 2017, Afghanistan-born Marwand* endured the suffering in his home country for the last time. Armed with his lawful special immigration visa and accompanied by his wife and their infant son, 28-year old Marwand left behind most of his large family of nine sisters and two brothers and did not look back.
He was soon greeted by Alexandria’s colorful lush trees, on the brink of fall, and an exciting and important transportation system, the metro, as well a variety of buses with young and old passengers of different colors and ethnicities.
Uncomfortable with day-to-day life in the Helmand Province of his native Afghanistan, Marwand knew about peace and opportunities waiting for him in the United States, thanks to positive reviews and encouragement by siblings who had been in Virginia for some time. It was just a matter of waiting between the time he filled out the application and the day he would be approved to leave his country and legally enter the United States.
Though the raging war and casualties of Afghanistan are well-documented in news sources and internet searches yield scores of photos of Afghans surrounded by soldiers in fatigues, Marwand is tight-lipped about his exact experiences. He prefers not to discuss specifics on what he and his family went through and has agreed to share his story on the condition that his full name not be published and that his image be partially shown. Instead, he has great hope in a bright future and most importantly, a newfound serenity that eluded him in his home country.
Paying the Price
Speaking comfortably from his home in the South Van Dorn neighborhood of Alexandria, Marwand recounted the financial difficulties he faced when he first arrived to Virginia one year ago. “Too many things are above our expectations,” he noted matter-of-factly, referring to the fact that the cost of living is surprisingly high and that he arrived unprepared for that reality.
Fortunately, he learned of Lutheran Social Services of the Nation’s Capital, which provided financial assistance to him and his family to pay rent and utilities for three months, and Virginia’s Department of Social Services provided Medicaid medical insurance and SNAP food benefits.
Marwand found immediate work at Staples as a sales associate in September of 2017. While working at Staples, he learned of another job opportunity with flexibility. In November of 2017, barely two months after arriving in Virginia, Marwand began his new job as an independent contractor doing deliveries for Amazon Flex..
This month Marwand celebrates one full year of working for Amazon Flex, where he logs about 30 hours per week, depending on the availability of assignments. Marwand stated, “Now, I am confident I can afford expenses and utilities. We are both [he and his wife] happy in general. We have a lot of achievements [accomplished] within the last year.”
When asked his favorite part of living in Alexandria, Marwand responded simply, “Every community has a children’s park [that he enjoys visiting] and [he also enjoys] spending time with countrymates.” He spoke at length about savoring the basics. He observed how people liked to share feelings and how good he felt to be in the company of his fellow countrymates, referring to Afghanistan-born members of the community whom he has befriended and with whom he has become close.
Marwand offers helpful advice to anyone who finds himself struggling or in difficulty, “Life is full of challenges. Unless we physically go against those, it’s best to find a good approach for yourself and meet people from different races and cultures.” He feels strongly that people can take away something of value from his story by learning something new about peoples’ behaviors and culture.
Marwand’s son is now one and a half and is also adjusting comfortably to his new surroundings and children’s activities all over the South Van Dorn community. As for the future, Marwand is extremely pleased to balance his job with Amazon Flex with master’s degree studies in project management while his wife takes classes in business administration at Virginia International University in Fairfax.
*Marwand has asked The Zebra to not disclose his full name and to not show his complete image to protect his family’s privacy.