For the second time this academic year, an international student has reached out to the Concordia community for financial assistance. In Jan 2022, Theodore Yumba-Mutumba started a GoFundMe to raise funds for his tuition debt after his financial and identification papers were stolen from his car, hindering his ability to take out loans and pay for tuition.
Two months later, sophomore Nasratullah Elham is fundraising for a part of the immigration process for 11 people, seven of whom are children.
Since Aug 2021, the Taliban has regained control in Afghanistan and the people who worked with the U.S. military or for democracy in the country are now facing danger and death threats, including the husbands of Elham’s two older sisters (who will be called “Fahima” and “Aliah ” to protect their safety).
Moreover, Elham’s youngest sister “Farah” will also immigrate with them to pursue her education since young Afghani girls have not been allowed to return to school since Sept 2021.
“Their safety is our greatest concern, but it’s also more than just their lives that are in danger. My youngest sister is brilliant – she has smashed all the academic records in our family and she wants to be a doctor – but now she is 14 and is no longer allowed to study in Afghanistan,” Elham said in a press release.
Because of the danger in Afghanistan, both families hope to immigrate to the U.S. or Canada, but they are unable to get visas at this point. However, the families can get refuge in Islamabad, Pakistan. They will be unable to work there, but will seek other options for permanent residence once they are safely settled.
Samantha Gayfer organized the GoFundMe on Mar. 7 with an ending goal of $40,000. Since its launch a month ago, the GoFundMe has raised over $3,000 in addition to a $1,000 in-person donation to Elham.
The funds from the GoFundMe will cover their living expenses for 20 months in Islamabad with $1,500 monthly and $30,000 total. The monthly budget includes expenses of the family’s basic needs in addition to Farah’s educational books and fees so she can continue her schooling. The goal also covers the administrative costs of the GoFundMe.
Although 20 months is an extended period of time, Elham said it is likely their immigration process will take longer because of the influx of Ukrainian refugees.
“There’s a great deal of concern that by pushing Ukrainian refugees through at the moment, it means that people who have been in the queue for years may be delayed, and possibly overlooked,” Gayfer said. “Every country has a quota of refugees that they can take. If that quota is now filled with Ukrainian refugees, what does that mean for the Syrians and the Afghanis and the Africans who have been waiting for years?”
The waiting for applications and protective policies has been one of the most challenging parts, Elham said. Elham is applying on behalf of the family for protection and safety, but it has been months and he has yet to hear a definitive answer.
“We don’t have weeks and months to pass by with nothing happening. It’s hard to rely on those, because you can’t guarantee what will happen within the time spent waiting,” Elham said. “I wish we lived in a world where every refugee that needed a safe space could be helped.”
Elham and Gayfer met at the United World College in Thailand. The Gayfers became the host family for Elham during his education at UWC and have kept in touch with Elham since his graduation in 2020.
“There’s no such thing as someone not having enough power to help. There’s always a way to help, whether it’s just sharing a message, volunteering or talking to the local government about what they can do for refugees. Small acts of kindness matter. Maybe you can’t give someone a home, and maybe you can’t give them $40,000, but you can just share their message and help create awareness,” Gayfer said.
Although the international refugee crisis may seem to be a distant struggle for Concordia students, Gayfer said its effect is present at Concordia through Elham. Students may feel unable to help, but they can make a direct impact through Elham, according to Gayfer.