Annandale welcomes Afghan refugees

Six Afghan students work together to welcome and acclimate Afghan refugees


Courtesy of FCPS Office of Communication and Community Relations

Junior Ahsanullah Luddin, Assistant Principal Sarah Eqab, sophomore Sosan Barakzai, senior Khujasta Basiri and sophomore Husna Basiri stand in front the school.

After the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, an influx of Afghan refugees arrived, and were processed at the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly, Virginia. Since then, Annandale has welcomed more than a dozen Afghan refugees.
In order to ensure that the new students are welcomed at Annandale, administration, Just World, other staff members and students have been implementing ways to help support the transition of the new Afghan students.

Students have been playing an important role in regard to the arrival of the new Afghan refugees.

Six of the students working to help make the arrival of the refugees more comforting are sophomores Sosan Barakzai and Husna Basiri, junior Ahsanullah Luddin and senior Khujasta Basiri.

They are all students that previously lived in Afghanistan and moved to America alongside their families.
Barakzai was born and raised in Kabul, Afghanistan. On March 17, 2017, Barakzai and her family moved to Springfield, Virginia after living in Kabul for 11 years. Barakzai then moved to Alexandria, Virginia and settled in with the help of teachers, friends and even her neighbors.

“Every child has a different experience in Afghanistan, a different level of knowledge, so we do not want to push them right away to join after school or they have to,” Barazkai said. “We will encourage them, if they want to stay after school because at the end it depends on the student’s level of knowledge in English. Also, Just World, MSA and Arabic Club would be good choices.”

The Basiri sisters, Luddin, Barakzai along with the help of ESOL department chair Merideth Hedrick, have been working on presentations to welcome the new refugees to become acclimated with Annandale.

“I believe that by helping someone we can’t change the whole world, but we can change the world of that person. I love to help them and be a good friend with them like a sister,” Khujasta Basiri said. “I want them to feel free that they can ask me any question that they have. I want to give them the feeling that they are not alone. We are with you, and we can help you reach your goals. We want to help them to feel confident. My message to those students is to believe in yourself and think positive. Everything is possible if you believe that you can do it.”

Khujasta and her sister Husna came to the U.S. on Feb. 12. 2020. Like Barakzai, the Basiri sisters were born and raised in Kabul, Afghanistan.

“I knew English, and I was able to speak English, but I didn’t know what to do. It was really hard to be in a new place where you have never been before. I was really confused and hopeless, but everything changed when I came to school and saw how friendly my teachers were,” Khujasta said.

“I had a great life with my family, my friends, and my teachers. Therefore, I got a strange feeling when I was about to leave my country. I felt like I will not only miss the people I love, but, I will miss the person who I am at this place at this time,” Husna said. “The systems, methods, and lessons were different and more challenging than in my country. Fortunately, I knew English and math skills that helped me take regular and honor classes in freshman year.”

“Fortunately, I became able to handle my school life. I want to continue this chain of support by lending a helping hand to those who struggle with their new school journey,” Husna said. “I know starting a new life in a new country with the language barrier, cultural differences, and diversity is formidable. As a result, I am always here to help them get ready for a new school life. I believe everything will get smoother day-by-day. I want them to trust themselves and believe in the magic of new beginnings because everyday is like a golden chance to start their journey to become who they want to be.”

The arrival of the new Afghan refugees is not known at this time, but the students intend to present their presentation once they arrive.

The presentation that the students are working on will include detailed information about the school, technology use, cultural differences and where and who to ask for help.

They also are in the process of making a teacher-version of the presentation so that the teachers can be prepared to adjust to the cultural and social differences as well as being a support system for the new students.