Originally aired/published on News4Jax.com. Click image to watch full segment.
By Aaron Farrar
Jacksonville, Fla. – One local Afghan refugee is making the most of his new opportunity in the United States. A man News4JAX is identifying only as Akbary is considered a trailblazer at his job in Jacksonville.
“We are happy and will adjust slowly,” he said. “Everything will be OK.”
Akbary has been working for Patterson Companies at a fulfillment center in Jacksonville.
He is the first Afghanistan refugee to be hired there.
“I have to do everything for my kids, for my four daughters,” Akbary said. “I love them so much. My whole life is for them right now. My life is already gone. I have to make a life for my kids.”
Akbary and his family boarded an airplane leaving the airport in Kabul last August to flee Afghanistan after the Taliban took over.
“I was just watching, wondering, ‘How do I get onto the airplane?’” he said. “I was mad.”
They made it out with just one bag from home and started a two-month journey. They made stops in Qatar, Washington, D.C., and El Paso, Texas, before eventually landing in Jacksonville 45 days later in October.
Akbary’s career was in banking. He also did projects with the United States Agency for International Development from 2008 to 2010.
Now, he works for a company that distributes products for dentists and veterinarians.
Akbary pulls orders as quickly as possible for customers, packs them and loads them on a truck. Workers ship about 6,000 packages a day.
“[Akbary] has a positive attitude,” said Drake Meyer, who is the Jacksonville Fulfillment Center’s manager for Patterson Companies. “He is ready to work every day. Whatever we ask him to do, he does it with a smile on his face.”
Meyer hired Akbary in November.
“We really don’t take into consideration where he’s from, what is history is,” Meyer said. “If he is going to come in and he is going to work hard, we will work hard for him, too.”
Catholic Charities helped Akbary secure the job. The group has been helping refugees and immigrants resettle in America, including people from Sudan, Ukraine and Syria.
Jade Basilius, a job development specialist with the charity, said Akbary was up for whatever job was offered.
“It says a lot about what he is willing to do for his family and what he is willing to do to make life happen here in the United States,” she said.
It is a new life Akbary is eternally grateful to have.
“Thanks to who helped me from Afghanistan to here,” he said.
Catholic Charities said it was helping about one family a month before the Afghanistan evacuation. Now, it helps seven families a week.
It has accepted 200 refugees from Afghanistan in just the last three months.