HOUSTON - Hundreds of Afghan families in Houston are preparing to spend their first Thanksgiving in the United States. So what’s being done to assist the families? One of the biggest goals is to make sure the Afghan families feel welcome here in Houston and what more hospitable way to greet someone to a new country than with a magnificent meal?
Big boxes full of Thanksgiving meals are being delivered to the families who now live in Houston after escaping Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover.
"We left everything behind, everything. Our own house, our property, everything," explains Ahmad, who arrived in Houston one month ago.
"We just appreciate being able to share a little bit of our family with them," says Volunteer Paula Whitfield, who’s delivering the meals with her husband Robert Whitfield Jr., their 11-year-old son Robert Whitfield III and their 8 year old Miles Whitfield.
"We’re doing this because it’s good to help others," adds the 11-year-old.
The volunteers are often met with horrific stories. One woman, for instance, quickly covered her face with her scarf before we began recording because she says if the Taliban knows she made it to the United States, that could put her husband and her 2-year-old daughter who are still in Afghanistan, in danger.
"I have a pain in my heart for my family I left behind," the woman says.
She made it to the U.S. with her mother and brother.
"It was a bad situation. It was super crowded and chaos. So with fear, and a lot of problems, we finally made it," Ahmad said. He didn’t want to give his last name for the same safety reasons.
Ahmad says he doesn’t know much about Thanksgiving except that he is grateful.
"We’re thankful we made it here and we are safe, for our own safety we are thankful for that," he says.
As 68 Afghan families who are new to Houston receive these Thanksgiving meals, thanks to Comcast and InterFaith Ministries, most of the recipients have never heard of the holiday.
"No," a woman named Mehdia answers and shakes her head as the translator asks if she's familiar with Thanksgiving.
Many hope to change that by delivering love and comfort along with the complimentary Thanksgiving meals, which is actually some of the best food money can buy because all the trimmings have been prepared by chefs at the fabulous Post Oak Hotel including the turkey.
"We have been brining it for 48 hours in a citrus brine. We have made a gravy and we are serving that with curried vegetables and rice. So we have a bit of the Middle East meeting the American way. I want them to feel very welcome here in America," explains Post Oak Hotel Executive Chef Jean Luc Royere.
"We never thought the Taliban would take over the entire thing and all of my family was left behind," says Hashmatulah Amiri, who lives in the U.S. and was working in Afghanistan when the takeover happened.
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Amiri says he, his wife, and their loved ones only made it to America thanks to U.S. special forces.
"Yeah, that was a bad situation. People attacked us and I had a fracture in my hand. This Thanksgiving is a special Thanksgiving for me, because I have my family here with me," says Amiri, who plans to cook on Thanksgiving, gather as many new Afghan families as possible, and show them the meaning of Thanksgiving.