The Zadran family’s story is not unlike that of other refugees. It was March 2017 and the Zadran family had to make a difficult decision; it was time to leave. Malika Zadran found herself alone with her three daughters and two sons after her husband left his family in Khost, Afghanistan. Once an Afghan police officer who had fought the Taliban alongside U.S. military forces, he had been targeted for assassination. He made his way to Pakistan from where he’d hoped to catch a flight to Australia. But she never heard from him again.
Fearing that she was the next target, Malika fled with her sister-in-law, Balala, whose husband had already been murdered by the Taliban. With the help of American officials who were resettling the families of Afghans who worked with the U.S. military, the Zadrans made the nearly 6,700-mile trek to the United States. None of them had ever flown on an airplane much less ventured beyond Afghanistan.
With the help of USCRI, the Zadrans eventually settled in Albany with 11 other Afghan families, all led by single mothers whose husbands had either been murdered by the Taliban or were missing.
Like most resettled refugees, when they arrived in Albany, they had no money or furniture to set up a new home. The mothers and children carried only a few suitcases of clothes and wore only second-hand shoes or flip flops. When 11 year old Naseema enrolled in a local school two years ago — her first time ever in a classroom — a teacher found a used pair of sneakers for her to wear in the cold weather instead of flip flops.
Word quickly spread about the plight of Albany’s Afghan families — especially their desperate need for new shoes.
That’s where Tamara Duker Freuman comes in.
“I really just felt the plight of these poor people who were trapped,” Freuman said. “What must it be like to be a mother of children who can’t keep your kids safe? I think it speaks to my biggest anxiety as a person, as a mother. I just had this appetite to do something.”
And so she did.
When she heard about the need for shoes, something clicked.
“The idea of shoes is so symbolic,” Freuman said. “There is this idea of walking in somebody’s shoes. When you literally think about a refugee, it’s their journey to get here. And for many refugees, it’s literally a journey on foot for much of the way.”
With a friend, Becky Stiles of Northvale, Freuman hatched the idea of creating a shoe registry. The registry launched on July 4. Already two-thirds of the 263 pairs of shoes have been purchased and shipped to Albany.
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