The Ali Khel Family Story

The following story was shared as an insert in our October 28th bulletin. On November 3rd & 4th, we held a bake sale to benefit the Ali Khel family. We were able to raise over $1400 to cover heating and utility bills over these coming cold winter months. Thank you so much for your support and generosity of this vibrant and loving family. Please take a moment to read their story and connect with them.


One Refugee Family’s Story

by Joan Willard


In the late winter of 2017 Beth Schafer, Holy Cross Director of Faith in Action Ministry met with the Refugee Assistance Coordinator at Catholic Charities. The Holy Cross Refugee Committee had expressed a desire to help a newly arrived refugee family in Syracuse. Catholic Charities response was, “Have we got a family for you!” This was the beginning of an inspirational relationship with the Ali Khel family and the parishioners of Holy Cross.

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Maliha and her nine children arrived in Syracuse from Afghanistan, via a refugee camp in Pakistan, in March 2017. Maliha’s husband, the father of their children was killed by a bomb in their hometown. Their eldest daughter, Zia Jan, had witnessed her father’s brutal death. Rushing to her father’s side, she held his hand and put her jacket around his head to stop the bleeding for over an hour till help came. Unfortunately, it was too late, and Mr. Khel died from his wounds. Zia Jan was traumatized and could not speak for over six months. This brave young woman had been first in her class but was not able to go back to school because of her trauma.

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After consulting with her family and caring Americans in her homeland, Maliha decided to move her children to America with the help of the US Bishops Refugee Commission. It was a rough beginning when they arrived in March in Syracuse; they had never seen snow before or felt such cold! Despite the cold, their hearts were warmed by the welcome they received by the volunteers who offered them warm coats, mittens, hats, shoes and a hot meal. Catholic Charities set them up in a house in Eastwood and the children were enrolled in nearby SCSD schools. They were also guided by the professional staffers and volunteers from  Refugee Resettlement, at Catholic Charities located at the CYO building on South Salina Street. They started going to English classes every day after school here and learned how to adjust to their new surroundings.

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Although a year of progress has passed, the needs of the Ali Khel family are more profound than ever. Direct support from Catholic Charities has ended and the public assistance only covers their rent and food. It does not include utilities, phone, clothing, toiletries or any other necessities. The two oldest children are in Corcoran high school and have part-time jobs. Zia Jan (age 20) works at With Love restaurant downtown. She goes to work right after school. Jameel (18) works part-time on the weekends at a gas station/ convenience store. Nazo (15) is in the ninth grade at Henninger High School. She loves school and her teachers and is planning to go out for track next spring. The twins, Riodar and Dildar (13) are at Lincoln Middle School. They are doing very well in school; their favorite subjects are math and science, receiving A” s and B’s on their most recent report card. They love soccer and are on the intramural team. The following three children attend Salem Hyde School. Didar (11) is in fifth grade and loves to draw and Dostdar (9) in fourth grade, likes math, building with Legos and playing soccer. Arzo (5)just started Kindergarten and is very bright. She said she has “ten new friends” and her teacher describes her as “a real delight”. Layma (4) is in a day care center right near their home. Maliha, after getting nine children off to school, goes to English class every day and actively searches for a job.

This family is truly amazing, demonstrating their love, resilience and grit at every challenge they face. They demonstrate the American values of persistence and determination. They will become citizens of our country one day and will contribute to society in ways that will far exceed any momentary assistance that our parish can provide. The members of the Holy Cross Refugee Committee find daily blessings in providing transportation, material and financial help to these wonderful people, who repeatedly demonstrate their gratitude. What we as a congregation give in the name of Christ, is a prudent and far-reaching investment. We look forward to a fruitful, continued relationship between Holy Cross Parish and the Ali Khel family of Syracuse, New York.

The Refugee Committee will sponsor a bake sale for the family. Please join us to meet them after 9am and 11:30 am mass next weekend. All bake sale donations will be applied to their heat bill for the coming winter months.

Thank you for your support!

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