‘We’re just thrilled’: Afghan refugee family reunited in Comox after years apart

'We're just thrilled': Afghan refugee family reunited in Comox after years apart

Leaning in to catch their first glimpse of an Afghan refugee family they fought to bring to safety, a group of big-hearted Comox Valley and Campbell River families let out cheers of relief Saturday at the Comox Airport.

“We’re just thrilled, we’re so thrilled that this is happening. It’s been two years that we’ve been waiting for this,” said Michelle Downey, a Campbell River resident and lead of the Safe Journey Afghan Refugee Sponsor Team.

“And it’s hard to believe it’s actually happening. There were so many sleepless nights,” said Dick Clancy, a volunteer sponsor of the Ahmadi family.

All worth it, said Clancy, when the Ahmadi family and their five little girls walked through the arrivals gate and into a new life on Vancouver Island.

“I’m overwhelmed. It’s hard to believe,” said Downey.

Their amazing journey started when Downey learned a high school friend of hers had lived with the Ahmadi’s when he was teaching English in Kandahar.

When Canadian and American forces pulled out of the country and the Taliban took control, the family was soon running for their lives, because one of the Ahmadi’s had helped U.S. forces as an interpreter, and they had five young girls to keep safe from the Taliban.

So Downey enlisted her own army-like team on Vancouver Island to come to their rescue. Twelve civilians, made up of Canadian Armed Forces families, grandparents and young children all pledged money and volunteered to bring them to the Island though sponsorship while the family ran for their lives, hiding house to house until they could come to Canada and their new home that awaits them in Campbell River.

“Surprisingly we pulled it off… never give up,” said Clancy.

“This is a family that wants to know what it’s like to be free,” said Downey.

It’s also reuniting brothers who haven’t seen each other in six years. Sayed Ahmadi, the Afghan interpreter in the family who was saved by U.S. Forces and settled in California, drove for three days to greet his long lost family at the Comox Airport.

“I cannot talk, I am super happy,” said a smiling Sayed Ahmadi.

It was a reunion made possible by an Island community halfway around the world that saw a family who needed help and made it happen, just in time for Christmas.

Skye RyanSkye Ryan

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