Refugee foster parents step up to help Afghan teens feel safe, loved, and connected
“We love these kids.”
Cara Salazar, content writer
Phil and Sandy remember learning about the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul, Afghanistan, in August 2021.
“Our hearts were just broken for those families,” Phil says. “We felt like there was a tangible need, so we prayed about how we could help.”
And so, the couple and their two sons opened their home and hearts to two teenage boys—Halim, 17 and Malek, 14. Both had been separated from their families while fleeing the war-torn country.
“We weren’t planning on fostering refugees, but that’s just how God leads and guides,” Phil says. “When we bought our house, we bought it with an extra bedroom with the intention that God would always fill it. And he has.”
After months of uncertainty and moving between refugee camps and U.S. military bases, Halim and Malek arrived at Phil and Sandy’s home nervous and shaken. Looking back on those early days, both the couple and the teens made considerable adjustments, including learning to communicate with each other.
“Google Translate doesn’t have their language, Dari,” Phil says. “I just remember thinking, What did we get ourselves into? Those first couple of days were definitely an eye-opening experience.”
Sandy says cooking was another hurdle they faced, due to the boys’ Muslim dietary restrictions and the fact that both Halim and Malek had little cooking experience.
“They’re really interested in learning how to cook,” Sandy says. “They’re on WhatsApp with their moms in Afghanistan sometimes trying to get things right and looking up ingredients and things like that. Everything has chili powder.”
While the boys have made great strides adjusting to their new life, it doesn’t come without a deep longing to be reunited with their families.
“They come from really great families who raised them well and took very good care of them,” Phil says. “They talk to them every day. They miss their families tremendously and they’re really worried about their safety in Afghanistan.”
There are no certainties if or when Halim and Malek’s families will be resettled in the U.S., but until then and long after, the boys will have a home with Phil and Sandy.
“They come to us, asking when their family is going to get here, and we don’t have those answers,” Phil says. “These kids have experienced something no kid should have to experience. God has put us here to calm them when they’re worried and to provide hope and shelter. We love these kids.”
*The boys’ names have been changed for privacy.