Brenna and Mark Puls of Grand Prairie, TX opened their home to an Afghan family of five through a program started by AirBnB to provide temporary housing to 20,000 Afghan refugees worldwide. They share the story of this family’s journey in hopes that they can start their new life here in the United States after spending most of their life providing support to US troops in Afghanistan.
Mohammed and his sweet family have escaped the terrors of the Taliban and are ready to start their new life in America. With a baby due in January, and 3 small children (6 yr old twins and a 2yr old), He and his wife, Feroza, need our help to give them their best start. Mohammed has risked his life since he was a teenager helping the Armed Forces and US Embassy in Kabul and needs us to fulfill our promise to help him and his family. They have overcome unimaginable obstacles, suffering, and pain to make it here. Please donate whatever you can to help our new family meet the many challenges ahead of them and thrive in this new life here in America.
Like many, we watched the American withdrawal and fall of Afghanistan play out on TV with horror, despair, and utter powerlessness. The Puls family desperately wanted to help and partnered with AirBnB and Refugee Services of Texas to provide housing for a refugee family. That is how they first met Mohammed, Feroza (5 months pregnant), and their 3 sweet children, Abubakar (6), Aisha (6), and Hajra (2). They are living with the Puls family for several weeks until their apartment is ready for move-in. They are the sweetest family and have already gained a permanent place within the family and their hearts. The children are unfazed by the language barriers and their daughter is thrilled with her 3 new best friends.
Mohammed speaks 6 languages (Farsi, Urdu, Pashto, French, English, & Tajik) and has worked for the past 15 years in the assistance of US Forces, including translation with Interpol and the US Embassy in Kabul. Mohammed lost both of his parents and one brother several years ago in a short amount of time and he became the head of the family. He has worked hard and was able to provide a very comfortable life for his family, including being able to help support his younger brothers. He owned his own home and private car and was living a good life. They had money saved in the bank and were preparing for the arrival of their 4th child. All of that changed in an instant.
Mohammed went to work like any other day, only to find his office trashed. Computers smashed, glass broken, and papers everywhere. Utilizing his embassy credentials, he was quickly rushed to the airport by US troops and encouraged to call his family. He would not return to his home again. Mohammed contacted Feroza and found out that four Taliban soldiers were on the way to the house to find him. He instructed her to tell them he had left the country the week before and gone to Turkey. She did just that and the soldiers told her they would be back tomorrow and to prepare food for 20 soldiers because they would come back to find him. Over the next three days, she and Mohammed were able to coordinate a 3 am escape plan to the airport. Mohammed’s brother drove Feroza and the children to the airport with just the clothes on their backs. It would be two more days of endless lines, no shade, and sleeping outside in the dirt before they would get to take their first and last flight out of Afghanistan, jam-packed in with hundreds of other desperate countrymen.
They arrived in Qatar via military plane and spent the next 48 hours waiting and even sleeping in line to be processed through customs. Two weeks later they were finally on their way to America. They made a quick stop in Philadelphia and missed their flight, but eventually ended up at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, where they would spend the next 53 days. When first viewing the arid New Mexico landscape, several refugees exclaimed in horror that they had been tricked and that they were back in Afghanistan!
Once at the Base, the family would live with 1500 other people in one large tent. There were 8 identical large tents to house all of the thousands of refugees. They were provided a very small living area which was partitioned off by garbage bag-like plastic walls and surrounded on all sides by other refugees. There were not enough cots and no blankets, so the family slept on the ground once again. It was noisy in the tent and privacy and sleep were hard to come by. Not to mention the phone calls and conversations with family in Afghanistan taking place in the middle of the night due to the time difference. People would come in and out of their room at all hours of the day and night, often confusing which room was theirs, as all the plastic areas looked the same. The family had money and Feroza’s gold jewelry stolen from their quarters. There were no washing machines, so they had to try to wash their clothes by hand in the sink. They would spend 2-3 hours every day waiting in line for their lunch sandwich and everyone was always hungry.
Time ticked backward and an exhausted and always hungry Feroza was often in pain and unable to get the much-needed rest for her growing baby. The littlest girl, Hajra, had one traumatizing night where she was awoken by the screams and cries from a neighbor having a breakdown. She was terrified and convinced that a child-eating monster from Afghan folklore was there to eat her. She was understandably inconsolable, and the family passed another sleepless night. Abubakar and Aisha are full of energy and did their best to stay busy and safe in the large tent. Abubakar went missing one evening and was found hours later watching a movie on the large projector.
Despite his own family’s suffering, Mohammed found opportunities to help those around him. He volunteered his time as a translator for the Red Cross, often being mocked by his countrymen for “doing all this work and not getting paid”. Through his service with the Red Cross, he was able to obtain a few blankets and made a make-shift bed on the ground for his family.
Nearing their breaking points and ready to give up hope, Mohammed saw their names on the flight lists. They were elated. They didn’t sleep the entire night for fear of missing their flight again. They piled into a bus in the dark early morning and made the long drive to the El Paso Airport. They flew from El Paso to Dallas, not knowing what was coming next. Refugee Services of Texas had arranged transport from the airport to our house and a Halal welcome meal delivered by a kind family from Richardson. We cleared out three bedrooms for them and the children but they are all sleeping in the same room, understandably so. They have two pieces of luggage filled with donated clothing items, many of which are the wrong size. They receive a small allowance for basics through the refugee organization but we are trying to help them save their money for when the assistance ends by sharing our supplies and food with them.
Mohammed is desperate to provide for his family. He has many skills, including a Commercial Drivers license, is fluent in multiple languages, and can even write your name in a cup of coffee. He is motivated and hungry to begin his new life in America and get his family back to some sort of normalcy. The Puls family has organized a GoFundMe account to help them with the endless expenses they will face, especially including buying a car, educational training, and baby supplies. They are grateful for anything you can donate.