Why the Y: Zakieh’s Story of Support


YMCA Settlement Advisor Volunteers with Afghan Support Program 

Zakieh Zarabi, YMCA Settlement Advisor, responded to a call for urgent support to help with Afghan arrivals. In August of 2021, unfortunately, a revitalized Taliban took Kabul. As this happened, after 20 years of an American-led coalition that ended Taliban rule in Afghanistan, many started to flee the country as fast as they could.  

Afghan workers who assisted the Canadian military during the war in Afghanistan, the interpreters, and others along with their families started landing in Toronto late August. After being tested for COVID-19, following quarantine, and other requirements, there was much support needed with documentation and preparation to move them to their new city of residence. 

IRCC (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada) put out a call for assistance from settlement advisors who might be able to help the Afghan arrivals in their first language. This is where Zakieh’s story begins. She volunteered to travel from Windsor to Toronto in early September and joined the Polycultural Immigrant and Community Services team who was coordinating the Afghan support program. 

Zakieh provided support wherever she could. She took phone calls, helped write notes, and provided information about medical and other services as recommended by the support program. Working 9am to 9pm she said the need was great and the time flew by each day.  

For Zakieh, she says the nature of the work was humanitarian and she felt deeply connected to these people. The Afghan arrivals shared their stories with her and how they felt extremely fortunate to board the airplane out of Kabul. After watching the news and speaking to her Canadian-Afghan friends and family, Zakieh also felt truly fortunate for her life in Canada. As an Afghan-Canadian Immigrant herself and a YMCA Settlement Advisor, Zakieh was able to answer their questions and even shared her own story of how she has built a better life in Canada. 

Zakieh is grateful for the support from the YMCA and the IRCC for the opportunity she was given to take part in the Afghan Support program. It is most likely fair to say that the Afghan arrivals felt the same way towards Zakieh.