Tahmina Ghoori, 25, looked over the skyline from atop Communications Hill in San José and reflected on how dramatically her life has changed from only one year ago today.
“My family and I were living a normal life. I had finished university, and I had a good job. In just a few days, everything I knew, my whole life, changed completely,” said Tahmina.
Fluent in Farsi, Spanish, and English, Tahmina planned to continue her studies in Afghanistan at Kabul University, earn a master’s degree, and follow her dream of writing prose and poetry in multiple languages.
Those plans changed abruptly when the Taliban retook Afghanistan’s capital in 2021, almost two decades after they were initially driven from Kabul by U.S. troops – a literal lifetime ago for someone like Tahmina.
With members of her family providing aid to the American government in Afghanistan, Tahmina was forced to flee her home and find refuge in the United States, making stops in Pennsylvania, Florida, Texas, and New Mexico before finally settling in Santa Clara County, California.
Today, Tahmina, and many others like her, have found a safe and welcoming home here in Santa Clara County with assistance from the County of Santa Clara Social Services Agency (SSA).
Refugee Employment and Elderly Services
From October 2021 to September 2022, Santa Clara County welcomed over 180 individuals and families from Afghanistan as part of the Operation Allies Welcome program. In 2023, the program is projected to serve an additional 200-250 refugees from Afghanistan, a significant increase from past years.
To assist with housing, food, employment, and transportation needs for newly arriving refugees, the County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors recently accepted additional federal funding for resettlement assistance. The measure approved by the Board authorized the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and the Jewish Family Services of Silicon Valley (JFS SV) to each receive up to $750,000 from October 1, 2022, through September 30, 2023.
Adjusting to Life in Santa Clara County
“Coming to the United States is a huge change for most refugees,” said Natalie Allen, Social Services Program Manager for SSA. “Many have escaped a crisis in their home countries only to discover that they may not possess the work history or cultural competency necessary to make ends meet. SSA helps these individuals to gain these skills and begin their life anew in Santa Clara County.”
Resettlement and integration into a new life for refugees in Santa Clara County is a rapid process. Refugee benefits typically provide for a period of up to six months. After that, most clients become self-sufficient. In Tahmina’s case, she receives Refugee Cash Assistance, CalFresh benefits and participates in Refugee Employment Services through the IRC.
“One thing I tell my clients is to trust in the process,” said Amritha Mandagoni, an employment specialist who works with the IRC. “As an immigrant myself, I know just how difficult it can be to find yourself in a new country where the language, customs, and information are foreign and unfamiliar. The important thing to know is that here in Santa Clara County, there are many people and organizations that care about you and are here to help you succeed.”
Thanks to the assistance provided through the County SSA and IRC, Tahmina has an apartment and a job as a Customer Service Specialist at KLA Corporation in Milpitas.
Tahmina expressed her appreciation and hope for the future, "The County of Santa Clara has given me a new opportunity to live the life I have always wanted. I am happy for my job and the safety of my family, and I know I am on a path to building something good.”
Refugee Employment and Elderly Services
On August 4, 2022, the County’s Social Services Agency received a one-time allocation of $2 million to help refugees find stability and build a new life in Santa Clara County.
For more information about refugee services please visit: