Afghan refugees working to care for local hospital patients

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Hundreds of refugees from Afghanistan have relocated to Rochester since American forces withdrew from the country in 2021. And as some families begin to rebuild their lives here, they’re using their skills to help one of our major health systems fill much-needed staffing shortages.     

Folad Shaeed worked as a cultural advisor and interpreter with the United State military in Afghanistan from 2006-2012, “I have trained probably thousands of soldiers, Afghan soldiers,” he tells News10NBC.  Shaeed’s job was always dangerous and almost deadly, “we were in my car driving to go to work and then we were ambushed and we got shot at and I was shot but luckily we survived,” he recalls.

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Shaeed and his family were able to get visas to move to America several years ago.  They relocated to Rochester where Shaeed was able to get a job at Rochester Regional Health though family connections.  When American forces withdrew from Afghanistan last year, it broke his heart, “we have done a lot of work that is undone now, it’s really hard for us all that was involved and the training especially the forces,” he says.

One way Shaeed has been able to cope is to be there for new Afghan refugees, people like Sayed Sadat who settled in Rochester with his family about six months ago, “the Taliban came I decided to come out from Afghanistan,” he tells News10NBC. 

Getting out was no small task, even though Sadat had worked at the U.S. Embassy, he had to make several attempts to actually get on a plane out of the country during the height of the exit, “about two months we was waiting, so many times we came to the airport, we came back to home so many times, maybe more than 10 times,” he recalls.

Finally, Sadat, his wife and two children made it safely to a base in Qatar and eventually to the United States.  When the family got to Rochester through a relief agency, Sadat was connected with a job at Rochester Regional Health, “I had a job before in Afghanistan as a pharmacy tech and a nursing job, I worked on hospital so she (employee at relief agency) told me I will show you the hospital and you can do part of the job you did before,” he says.

For now, Sadat works with Shaeed in the emergency room at Rochester General Hospital, helping to get patients checked in and moved around.  Both are thankful for the opportunity to build a life here and keep their families safe, particularly their wives and daughters who are seeing women’s rights stripped away under Taliban rule in Afghanistan.  “After hearing that the new regime stopped the women going to school and work that was rough for the ladies that are here,” Shaeed says.

Sadat and Shaeed both still has family members in Afghanistan who are hoping to immigrate to the United States and as they look for ways to help facilitate that, they’re doing everything they can to prosper in the country that gave them a chance at a new life.  

In addition to his job at RGH, Shaeed is a full time student at RIT majoring in Biology and Sadat is hoping to move up the chain at RGH by going to nursing school, “I’m feeling better than before but I wish I do more important things for my kids and for my family and for the people of Rochester,” he tells News10NBC.