On Tuesday night Benafsha and her husband, Mustafa, anxiously waited at Dulles International Airport for their son, 22-month-old Jasoor, to arrive from Afghanistan.
Benafsha tugged at her long brown hair nervously, and Mustafa held his wife close to him as they watched for their son to walk through the airport security exit and into their arms.
The last time they saw Jasoor was over a year ago — they had been separated from him for more than half his life.
An unexpected, tragic parting
On Aug. 26, 2021, the family was supposed to begin a new life together.
Benafsha had served as a translator for coalition forces in Afghanistan, and when the U.S. withdrew its last troops from the country after more than 20 years, she was among the lucky ones granted Special Immigrant Visas to evacuate to the United States.
While the family was waiting to board a flight to the U.S. at Kabul’s airport, a suicide bomber detonated explosives, killing more than 170 people. Jasoor was in the arms of his grandmother, and in the chaos that ensued, as soldiers exchanged gunfire with militants of the Islamic State – Korasan Province, the pair were separated from the baby’s parents.
Benafsha and Mustafa, distraught but powerless in the face of a military operation reacting to a wartime situation, were forced to leave Kabul without Jasoor. The hope that they would soon be reunited and that by leaving they would best ensure their son’s safety sustained them as they departed without him.
A crisis pregnancy center says 'yes'
By December, however, that hope appeared to be fading. It had been almost four months since they had seen their son, and things were not going well. Jasoor and his grandmother were barely surviving on their own in Kabul — as the dead of winter approached, they were running out of coal and had little food.
Things were no better for Benafsha and Mustafa, who were about to be evicted from the temporary housing they had found with a relative in Texas. Adding to the stressful situation, Benafsha was pregnant and in need of medical care.
Desperate for help, she contacted the Pflugerville Pregnancy Resource Center outside of Austin. Little did she know that this pro-life crisis pregnancy center would not only help her with her immediate needs, but it would be the means to seeing her son again.
Brittany Green, executive director of the pregnancy center, told CNA that when Benafsha came to them, they saw there were two critical issues facing the couple: medical care and housing.
The clinic helped her get health insurance and made an appointment with the center’s medical director for OB-GYN care.
Next came finding a place for the couple to live. While the pro-life pregnancy center offers counseling and health care to women in crisis pregnancies, there’s a lot more to the services they offer.
“Our perception here is we come from a place of ‘yes.’ If it is something that we can do, we’re going to do it. If it’s something we can’t do, we’re going to find the people who can help us do it,” Green said.
“The people that we serve often hear ‘no.’ And we don’t want them to come to us and hear another ‘no.’ So we will do everything in our power to make sure that their future and success is set up,” she explained.
With the help of Loveline Outreach Ministry and a local church, the Pflugerville pro-life clinic found Benafsha and Mustafa a hotel room for a month, and they helped Mustafa find a job. Then, through Texas Alliance for Life, she learned about Jason Jones’ work evacuating refugees in Afghanistan through the nonprofit he founded, the Vulnerable People Project (VPP).
Green got in touch with Jones, who happened to be in Texas at the time, and arranged to have coffee with Jones, Benafsha, and Mustafa.
Jones asked for Jasoor and his grandmother’s address, and within 24 hours a care package of coal and food was delivered to them in Kabul. He also helped make funds available for Benafsha and Mustafa to secure more permanent housing in Texas. VPP works with organizations in Afghanistan to provide much-needed services including food, health care, and education to those still in the country.
‘Only God could make this happen’
In addition to providing aid in Afghanistan, the VPP has helped thousands of Afghan citizens obtain visas to leave their country and find a safe haven elsewhere. Jones set the wheels in motion to get Jasoor a visa to the U.S.
Marilis Pineiro, the nonprofit’s legislative and diplomatic relations liaison, successfully lobbied the State Department to approve Jasoor’s visa after months of paperwork and negotiations.
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Since Jasoor is considered an infant, it was particularly difficult to get him a visa to travel without his parents, Pineiro told CNA. The State Department finally allowed his 24-year-old aunt a visa to accompany him.
While Pineiro has helped shepherd hundreds of Afghanis to safety, she said that reuniting Jasoor with his parents was an especially emotional experience for her.
“I’m still in shock because it was such a seemingly impossible task,” Pineiro told CNA. “I ask myself ‘How?’ and the answer is that only God could make that happen.”
Jones told CNA that getting the family back together again showed the important role pro-life pregnancy centers play in serving mothers and their families.
“I’m so grateful for the thousands of pregnancy centers across America that help women meet their needs. If not for this pro-life clinic reaching out to us, we never would have met Benafsha and Mustafa and been able to help them reunite with Jasoor,” he said.
When a curly-haired Jasoor, now a toddler, finally entered the international arrivals waiting area at Dulles Airport, his mother and father hugged him and kissed him as they thought they might never get a chance to see him again.
The last time they saw each was at another airport, and the circumstances could not have been more different.
“This is the happiest day of my life,” Benafsha said, holding baby Helen in her arms, and Jasoor by his hand, as they set off to their new home in Virginia, a dream come true after so much sorrow and uncertainty.
By the time the Taliban captured Kabul at the end of August 2021 and began ruling with oppression, hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children had fled the country, many seeking a new life in the United States.
As the winter in Afghanistan is provoking the largest humanitarian crisis in the world, The Vulnerable People Project is getting ready to deliver coal and food to 5,000 Afghan families during the Christmas season.