This morning, we have the honor of sitting in the presence of one of the bravest women I have come to know. Ara* is sharing her story of bravery in the face of terror. We invite you to grab a cup of coffee (or tea!) and join us in learning her story.

I grew up in a big family and grew up with very high ideals of family. My father had a good education and served in the Afghan army. When he was younger, he came to America and studied in Kansas City, Missouri. When I was young, I wanted to finish my studies like him and take care of my mom full-time because she got very sick. I took care of her for a long time while going to school, learning English and becoming interested in medicine. After graduating secondary school and my mother’s death, I started studying in a nursing program. I was inspired by taking care of my mother, because I had learned how to take care of the elderly.

When the situation came to Afghanistan, it was very difficult. It was especially very difficult being a woman or a child. Women couldn't go to school, so I wasn't able to get my nursing certificate. They shut off hospitals to all women and children and only gave them access to private clinics. In private clinics with poor people in a poor country, doctors would prescribe vulnerable patients all of these different and expensive medications, and patients would pay for it because they thought it would heal them. People were spending everything they had and borrowing from friends and family because they believed if they did, they would be healed. I was passionate about helping young women and children. I desired to educate young women and children on how to be healthy and to help them be healthy. So, in the back of my father’s home, I took a room and started providing clinical services to women and children. I would provide vaccinations, nursing services, and educate young girls about their body development. It was very difficult work because there were so many people who needed help. I was about 18 or 19 when I started this clinic. My sister is a pediatrician, and she helped me run it.

It was extremely dangerous work. One day, a Talib man came and knocked on the door of my father’s house. My father answered, not knowing what to expect. The man complained that every day, there were always women and children coming in and out of our house. My father answered and explained that my sister and I were running a small clinic for women and children. The man said “okay,” and let us keep working! It was a miracle from God! After several days, a woman who was married to a Taliban man came to the clinic and sought to receive help from me. She didn't come with a car or a bicycle, so she had walked for miles and miles from their camp. She had heard what we were doing and was seeking medical assistance because her husband wouldn't let her go to a hospital. I helped her because she couldn't go anywhere else. Soon after, women from all surrounding villages began coming to our home to seek medical help.

I came to America one year ago with the dream of studying in a nursing program and becoming a nurse. I want to work with the elderly, just like in the beginning when I took care of my mom. In my culture, you never disrespect the elderly. You take care of them, and let your children play with them. I want my children to know about this part of my culture. I want my children to see value in the elderly.

If you would like to be active in welcoming similar families to America, whether through friendship or the donation of goods and services, please contact jlong@wr.org.

*Name has been changed for the woman’s security.