Local organizations working to help resettle two Afghan refugee families in The Valley are untangling the red tape around immigration issues, VISAs and meeting the requirement around employment.
Both families have a long-term connection to the Mad River Valley and a passion for skiing. Eric Friedman, executive director of the chamber of commerce, said his relationship with the two families began over a decade ago when he connected with them through a nongovernmental organization doing aid work in Afghanistan at the time It was brought to his attention that there were two people who were very interested in developing the tourist industry and a ski industry in the Bamiyan region of Afghanistan.
That was several years ago and at the time Friedman said, Mad River Glen and others sent skis, equipment, clothing and even a rope tow to Sajjad Husaini and Ali Joya. They were able to set up a guide service.
Husaini and Joya also helped to create the first Afghan Alpine Ski Team called the Bamiyan Ski Club, competing at the 2017 FIS World Championships in St. Moritz and were also invited as special guests to the Seoul Olympics in 2018, Friedman explained.
Local efforts to relocate the two families got underway in earnest in September and October last year. This week, Friedman provided an update on the effort. One major hurdle in the Mad River Valley is housing. Friedman said a generous second-home owner is making housing available for the two families. The two families initially settled in Italy after fleeing Afghanistan last summer and have subsequently moved to Germany, Friedman explained. Both families have two children.
With housing secured, Friedman said, the next thing to manage is solving the employment issue. Because of the type of VISA being sought for these two families, their new jobs need to be involved with the ski/recreation industry.
“We have to come up with three years of work commitment and we’ve got a few irons in the fire that we think we can put together to make it all work. We’re hopeful that we can get it sorted out and have them arrive at the end of winter or early spring,” Friedman said.