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As they build new life in Kansas City, family worries for loved ones still in Afghanistan

zuhal noorany
Habiburahman Noorany
Posted at 2:28 PM, Nov 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-04 23:52:49-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Agencies in the Kansas City area say they're ready to help hundreds of Afghan evacuees, with at least 1,200 expected to be brought to Missouri.

The Noorany family is already a few years into their life in Kansas City, with pieces of their hearts still in Afghanistan.

In a North Kansas City High School cooking class, senior Zuhal Noorany, 18, studies more than just the recipe.

"I'm learning when I'm doing things, not just talk about it," she said.

She said she learned how to read and write in English growing up in Afghanistan but is still learning to speak the language.

"They are talking too fast sometimes and when you're new it's hard to know what they're talking about," she said.

Zuhal's parents, Habiburahman and Sayeda Noorany, are learning, too. They attend adult English classes through the North Kansas City School District's Adult Education and Literacy program.

"New country, new language. It is hard for me and my family," Habiburahman said.

The family of seven, with three sons and two daughters, moved to Kansas City from Afghanistan in 2019.

English was new to Sayeda. Habiburahman said he spoke a little English before moving to the U.S., after spending years working with the U.S. military in construction in Afghanistan.

While the family is working on skills here to help their new everyday life, they still worry about the life and loved ones they left behind when they came to the states.

"For safe life and for better life for my kids, for my family, and for better education for my kids," Habiburahman said.

They're not the only ones seeking better conditions.

"We do not have the space and the ability to keep up on the need, so we are just constantly trying to figure out new ways of serving students," said Thaya Fares, adult education and literacy program coordinator.

Some of the hundreds of people evacuated from Afghanistan have already arrived in Kansas City to also potentially come to their program. The free program, she added, can provide resources and help for more than learning English.

"Citizenship, digital literacy, work skills, job training, assistance getting into college," Fares said.

Habiburahman is getting help with the process of trying to get his sons-in-law here from Afghanistan. He said he returned there with his family and narrowly made it back to the U.S.

"We just came before the Taliban take over. We went for our daughters' marriage. They got married in Afghanistan and my daughters, they moved before — the day before the Taliban take over," he said.

"I miss my husband, their family, and right now the situation in Afghanistan is like horrible for every person that they are living there" Zuhal said.

"They're not safe," Habiburahman said.

The family tries to balance the weight of their worry for family members still in Afghanistan with growing their new life in Kansas City.

"They like their schools and their subject and every day they're learning some new. We are learning from them" Habiburahman said about his children.

"I'm so proud of my parents," Zuhal said. She hopes to graduate this year and eventually become a judge.

Fares said at least 75% of the students in their adult literacy program are English language learners, speaking about forty languages from around 60 countries. Fares said that they are looking for volunteers as the school district works on a permanent, larger building for the program.