EWE Spirit Grant Recipient Story:
This March, the EWE Spirit Foundation awarded $35,000 in grants to nonprofit organizations helping people in immediate need, bringing our total grantmaking to $150,000. This round included three new grant recipients, one of which is the Luminus Network for New Americans.
Luminus Network for New Americans
As the Taliban swept into Kabul, Afghanistan, last August, Hourab received an urgent call from his commanding officer. Although he was a hair stylist by trade, the turmoil in his country had led him to serve as a soldier for the U.S. Army. Staying in Afghanistan under the control of the Taliban would put him, his wife—who was pregnant at the time—and their three children in danger. The officer gave them half an hour to get to the airport.
With not much more than a change of clothes in their backpacks, the family spent the night in the airport before being airlifted to Germany and then, eventually, to a military base in Virginia. A resettlement agency then relocated them to an extended-stay hotel in Baltimore, Maryland. By that point, more than 80,000 Afghans had been evacuated. The resources supporting the asylum seekers who made it to the U.S. were overwhelmed. Hourab and his wife, Nasima, spoke no English and didn’t know how to acquire health insurance, so Nasima went several months without prenatal care. She didn’t know how much danger she and her baby were in until she met Shakera Rahimi.
A fellow Afghan who’d worked with the Centers for Disease Control in her country for more than a decade, Shakera brought her family to safety in the U.S. in 2014. She was a licensed physician in Afghanistan, but couldn’t work as a doctor here in the States without significant additional education. So she trained instead to become a surgical assistant. “It was not easy balancing work, college and taking care of my kids,” she remembers.
The refugee crisis last fall spurred Shakera to change careers yet again. Determined to help Afghans navigate the challenging obstacles she’d faced in this unfamiliar country, she became the Afghan Alliance Coordinator at the Luminus Network for New Americans, a nonprofit organization providing legal, social and language services to refugees, immigrants and asylum seekers in central Maryland.
Shakera and a volunteer OB/Gyn learned about Nasima while visiting one of her neighbors. They quickly discovered that her blood pressure was dangerously high. Through Luminus’ resources, they connected her to a clinic that brought her blood pressure down and guided her safely to term. After the birth, Nasima’s baby was in critical condition and had to be intubated. Shakera provided Pashto interpretation throughout the ordeal, then organized clothes and supplies for the family when Nasima and the baby were discharged from the hospital. A month later, with help from Luminus, Hourab started a job working for an Afghan restaurant in Baltimore and began taking steps to return to his original career of styling hair.
Luminus has empowered families like these for more than 40 years. Its 15-person staff and approximately 500 volunteers assist as many as 3,000 people each year. The organization’s dream of providing a bright future for all New Americans exemplifies the EWE Spirit. Like Luminus, we, too, envision a community that welcomes immigrant neighbors, values their cultures, understands and addresses their needs, celebrates their achievements, and elevates their voices.
Note: The clients’ names in the above story were changed to maintain their privacy.