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March 2015 Issue 8   

P.O. Box 281
Portland, Maine 04112
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Inspired To Give?

PESLSF typically has more applicants for scholarships than it is able to fund.  Please consider giving a contribution now so that we can help more individuals attend a class in grammar, reading, or writing. Thank you for your generosity!


Interested in Volunteering?
PESLSF is always looking for people who want to help. There are a variety of positions available and all of them are rewarding on many levels.  
Contact Eleanor Goldberg for more information 



While the snow keeps falling and the wind chills continually dip below zero, our hearts are warmed by the generosity of all of our donors who contributed to the PESLSF Annual Appeal. Scholarships over the last year have been awarded to individuals from Iraq, Peru, Democratic Republic of Congo, Vietnam, Rwanda, Djibouti, Republic of Georgia, Somalia, Burundi, Afghanistan, and Syria. Thank you for making it possible for these individuals to take classes to improve their level of English skills. Enjoy reading Ahmed's story* and be inspired by what he has already accomplished in the short period of time he has been in Portland. 


Caught in the wake of withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, many interpreters and translators who worked alongside the US military for many years fear for their safety and the safety of their families. 



U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Teddy Wade available under a Creative Commons Attribution license 


His work came at a price. Ultimately, he had to leave his native country of Afghanistan.


In 2003, when Ahmed accepted a job interpreting for the US military, he didn't know that ten years later, on November 26, 2013, he would have to say goodbye to his father, mother, nine siblings, and close friends to board a plane for the US with his wife and three children. Ahmed has not seen family and friends since. His life would be in grave danger if he were to return to his country.


Ahmed was from Kabul, Afghanistan. He recalls, "In 2003, I was financially deprived and we really needed money. I was the oldest child of the family and I had to help my father." Ahmed, who is fluent in Pashto, Dari, and English, was hired to interpret for the military. He attended classes while he worked. At that time, the US and British companies were hiring local Afghan nationals to be interpreters and translators for the US and British military. For ten years," he says, "I worked in various capacities ranging from Head of Clinic for the Afghan Ministry of Public Health, interpreter, medical translator, and Team Leader/Work Flow Manager for SOS International in Kabul." Although Ahmed gained a lot of experience in these positions, he states, "At times it was very stressful and difficult. We had to deal with all security problems on a daily basis. We had to go out on patrols, establish checkpoints, and check vehicles. We had to be part of investigations for drug smuggling and arms trafficking. Every minute you would be thinking of a blast or suicide attack because you had to stop a car and you never knew the person or what the person was carrying. It was so stressful, but I had to do it to help my family who was relying on me. I had no other means of income." Ahmed has a tremendous sense of duty to his family and his country. He explains, "I had to help my family to become financially sustainable. Also, I had to help build and improve the security and contribute a little bit toward my country's establishment." 


As a US Military Interpreter/Translator, Ahmed and his family were issued Special Immigrant Visas. These visas are granted to individuals who worked for or on behalf of the US government in Afghanistan and experienced ongoing serious threats as a result of their employment. The Taliban and local insurgents targeted interpreters because of their close relationships with the US military. In addition to interpreting for foreign troops, they also served as cultural brokers, an important role that helped the military avoid cultural misunderstandings. Ahmed states, "Afghanistan is still a war zone. The security situation definitely put our life under constant threat. Some people had to move from location to location to hide their whereabouts from insurgents." Today there are at least 1600 interpreters from Afghanistan and 6000 from Iraq who live in the US.


Ahmed is a medical doctor by training. "I attended a very prestigious high school in Afghanistan. When I was entering high school in Kabul, the Soviet backed government collapsed and the Mujahedeen came into power." In 1997, the year he entered medical school at Kabul Medical University, the Mujahedeen government collapsed and the Taliban came into power. He recalls, "All of my graduations are associated with a political event."


During the Taliban regime, I was a medical student until 2001 when the Taliban government collapsed." Despite the challenges of living in a country under such turmoil, Ahmed graduated with a Medical Degree from KMU in 2004. "While I was in medical school I always had a passion to better serve the people in my community and I put a lot of effort into achieving this goal." Unfortunately Ahmed's dream of practicing medicine was cut short. He recalls, "The deteriorating security situation in my country did not allow me to do so. I could not fulfill the dream of serving my people. It seemed like both my future and my hope were lost." He adds, "On the other hand, when I started meeting and interacting as a medical interpreter and translator for the US Air Force doctors in Afghanistan in 2007, my hope and passion were restored. After witnessing the unbelievably great work ethics of the US doctors, I constantly thought and dreamed as to how I could get into the US medical system." 


Ahmed remains steadfast to his dream of getting back into the medical field. He admits, "When I first arrived in Portland, I was lost. You don't know how to get around. I had a lot to figure out. I realize the fact that entering the medical profession in the US is going to be challenging." When Ahmed was interviewed last spring, only 6 months after his arrival, he had laid out his short and long-term plans." To find a job is included in my short-term plan. To enter the Physicians Assistant program at the University of New England is my long-term plan.


PESLSF has good news to report on Ahmed's successes.

Regarding his short- term plan, Ahmed reports, "Currently, I am employed by Catholic Charities. I work 20 hours a week as the Translations Coordinator and 10 hours a week with the Affidavit of Relationship program.


Moving forward with his long- term plan, Ahmed took the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), a requirement for admission to UNE. PESLSF provided a scholarship to help him prepare for the exam. Last May, in an email Ahmed exclaimed, "I just wanted to share great news with you all. I received my TOEFL result yesterday and I scored 95!" Ahmed also successfully completed Anatomy and Physiology 1 and 2, an additional UNE requirement. In September of 2014, less than a year of his arrival in the US, Ahmed wrote to PESLSF with an update, "Finally, I would like to share the great news!!! I got accepted to UNE's Physician Assistant Master of Science Program! It is with great gratitude that I thank you all for the help you provided me to get into the program. Without your support it would have been extremely difficult or maybe even impossible to succeed. Your sincere cooperation and strong support made it possible for me to achieve this goal."


PESLSF is humbled by the determination of Ahmed. We congratulate him on reaching his goals. Classes start in May! Good luck!


*For security reasons "Ahmed" asked that his real name and photo not be published



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