Breaking News
More () »

Afghan refugee thriving in San Diego a year after evacuating Kabul

A refugee who needed help is now working at the same center for refugees arriving in San Diego that helped his family.

SAN DIEGO — A year ago, chaos and violence erupted in Afghanistan when the U.S. withdrew troops and the Taliban took over.

Hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees fled, many coming here to San Diego to start over.

It's been nearly a year since Mr. Momini and his wife evacuated their home country of Afghanistan. They came here to The Alliance for African Assistance for help. Now, a year later, he's giving back and helping other refugees resettle.

As Afghan refugee Mr. Momini works on a case, he knows he used to be a name in one of these files at the federally appointed resettlement agency, the Alliance for African Assistance in the College Area.

“I said, ‘I'm a walk-in client, if you guys can accept my case.’ And they accepted,” said Momini.

That was in September of last year.

Twenty-three days later he and his wife moved into their new home in National City and by December he had a full-time job at the very place that helped he and his family. 

“I really want to do this job from the bottom of my heart. Because I know I've been in their situation.

He knows the fear, the panic, the anxiety of leaving family behind in Afghanistan where the Taliban have taken over and then having to start over in America.

“I've been in their shoes, you know I know what they're going through,” said Momini.

San Diego County reports Afghan refugees make up the largest population relocating to San Diego in the last year. Since the fall of Kabul, at least 2,6876 have migrated here.

Momini still fears the Taliban and with many family members in Afghanistan he doesn’t want to reveal his identity.

“Their animals,” said Momini.

When Momini was in high school he proudly joined the Afghan military at age 17 and became a translator for the U.S. Army.

On August 15, 2021, American troops started to withdraw and Momini went to the Kabul airport to help thousands flee the violence.

“I stayed there helping the other Afghans,” said Momini. “It was chaos, it was just a disaster.”

Five days later he and his wife and uncle were able to evacuate.

From Kabul, he flew to Qatar, Italy, Philadelphia, Texas and landed in San Diego where he knew a friend.

“When we came here when we came to San Diego, we came with two backpacks,” said Momini

That was nearly a year ago, now he has a home, a job to help refugees like himself start over in San Diego, a community that supported him when he needed it the most.

“I’m relieved I am out of there. And I love everything here. You know, it's just a different world for me,” said Momini.

There’s also silver lining for his wife. She is now attending college where she is learning English.

Last year the San Diego County Board of Supervisors approved a task force to support Afghan evacuees.

Alliance for African Assistance, Catholic Charities, Jewish Family Service and International Rescue Committee are the four federally designated refugee resettlement agencies in San Diego County.

WATCH RELATED: Hundreds of displaced Afghan refugee families receive support (February 2022)

Before You Leave, Check This Out