human development, social justice and sustainable social systems

Starting all over again

a doctor in Afganistan, an interpreter in Caritas Athens

Caritas Athens’ Help Center at 8, Emmanouil Benaki street is a point of reference in supporting Greeks or foreigners who are in need, face challenges, need to share their burdens, their hopes, but also their joy each time they accomplish a goal or overcome a crisis!

High numbers of refugees seeking asylum in Greece urge both the Greek State and the NGOs working in the field to highly prioritise their social integration.

Only since last October, 158 people have accessed the Center’s offices to seek counseling for job search; 27 among them are already employed.

One of them is Zahed, who has a remarkable story: he was born and raised in Kabul, where he studied medicine and worked for a year. Then he moved to the town Mazar e Sharif but soon left to offer both his wife and daughter a brighter future.

As soon as he arrived in our country, last winter, he started looking for a job, in order to ensure proper living conditions for his family. The way he puts it, “taking care of my family is a priority, but mostly I didn’t want anyone to help me without reciprocation!”

He took a friend’s advice to contact Caritas Athens’ head offices, where he was referred to the Help Center to meet with social worker Martha Koutsogiannouli who recalls: “At the beginning, he seemed rather stressed, still strongly motivated, given that his family gave him the strength to carry on. Motivation is paramount for beneficiaries; while a counselor’s responsibility is to further enhance it, offering support through the stressful and harsh road to employment, they must believe in it and be actively involved.”

“Zahed is fluent in English and he seemed particularly engaged right from our first meeting. He immediately drafted his résumé in cooperation with Martha to send it to companies applying for prospective positions, while in the meantime he tackled all red tape procedures and collected the necessary documents. A few days later, on November 29th, he was surprised to receive a phone call from Caritas Athens’  head offices for a job interview as a Farsi interpreter. He made it through the hiring process for both his personality and his skills and he is now employed as a cultural mediator at one of the organisation’s shelters for refugees seeking asylum.”

He is particularly satisfied with his new job and grateful that highly specialised and trusted professionals empowered him. Now that he has a fixed income he feels independent and calm to look after his family and to make plans for the future. He still dreams of working as a doctor somewhere in northern Europe. Nevertheless, he mentions that his strong motivation is key for accomplishing his aspirations: “I could have stayed home, in bed, expecting to get help or a job, but it wouldn’t feel right; I firmly believe that we must face challenges actively involved.”

Article first published by Caritas Athens