Stranger Becomes Neighbor

Stranger Becomes Neighbor

We saw it on the news. The images still haunt us. Two years ago this month, a desperate sea of humanity rushed the Kabul airport as the American military started mass evacuations in Afghanistan. Many were left behind to face the Taliban, while some escaped to countries like Iran and Pakistan. For over 80,000 refugees, America is now home. Their lives continue, but our news feeds have moved on, blasting stories about today’s crisis-du-jour. Now these evacuees live beside us, trying to make ends meet, find housing, gain acceptance, adapt to a new culture, and become valued members of our communities. In Stranger Becomes Neighbor, we follow them. And we meet the Americans who have chosen to help their new neighbors. Like the stay-at-home mom who convinces a neighbor to rent out their basement to a pregnant Afghan woman, then finds herself helping to deliver the baby. Like a young widow who served in a secret pro-American unit of the Afghan military and now struggles to find childcare so she can work at Walmart. Their stories – and the heartbreaking stories of loved ones left behind – inspire us to discover the hope and triumph of the human spirit. What can one person do to help a stranger? We find out on a new podcast from KSL Podcasts, the people who brought you Cold and The Letter. Coming soon, Stranger Becomes Neighbor


July 26, 2023 4 mins

It's been two years since the U.S. pulled out of Afghanistan and some 80,000 people were  evacuated are living here in America. Understaffed resource agencies were flooded with thousands of people at once. This is the story of volunteers who stepped in to bridge the gap for the remarkable people who fought oppression, then needed to flee Taliban. 

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An ambitious 16-year-old girl has graduated two years early from her high school in Afghanistan. She is ready to take the medical school entrance exam to pursue her dream of being a doctor, but she never gets the chance. In August of 2021, the Taliban regains power and she and her family rushe to the Kabul airport. She is one of the lucky ones who makes it through the gate, but when she looks around, she realiz...

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August 15, 2023 48 mins

Their father killed by the Taliban, a girl and her family fled to Pakistan then America, but this happened more than 20 years ago. Now, Nazifa is using her own experience as a refugee to help hundreds of Afghans who were part of the mass exodus when the U.S. military pulled out of the country in 2021. But she is only one person and the need is immense. Who will step up to help? 

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Looking at a young woman in a headscarf quietly ringing up groceries at Walmart, you would never know the dramatic life she has lived. During the war in Afghanistan, the US military trained a small, elite force of Afghan women called the Female Tactical Platoon (FTP) to serve alongside American special forces on dangerous night raids of suspected Taliban homes and compounds.

These female soldiers had to keep th...

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August 29, 2023 53 mins

When thousands of Afghans arrived in US communities in a short time frame, the refugee agencies were challenged to meet the needs of the evacuees. It fell on regular Americans to try to fill in the gaps.

This story follows the efforts of two especially driven volunteers: one a former refugee herself, the other a stay-at-home mother of five. They reach the limits of what they can do alone, and try to figure out ...

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September 12, 2023 55 mins

Americans know very little about the Afghan special forces known as the Zero Units who were instrumental to the war on terror in Afghanistan, but now they’re living among us in America. One of these Afghan veterans has a family of four with another baby on the way, and they are in desperate need of a home. A neighborhood pulls together to help them, even though it means moving them far from refugee servic...

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September 19, 2023 58 mins

After more than a year in America, 5-year-old Ava - who we met earlier in the podcast - is still living with her aunts in Salt Lake City, while her parents remain in Afghanistan. The urgency to bring them to the U.S. is underscored by a terrifying visit by the Taliban.

Meanwhile, the family’s future in America, along with most of the Afghans who were evacuated to the US remains uncertain. They apply for a...

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October 3, 2023 16 mins

As refugees living in the US, Nazifa and her sister founded a non-profit organization called HOPE for Afghanistan, which funded education for girls and women in their home country. But when the Taliban took power in 2021, everything they had been working on collapsed overnight. The students and teachers they were supporting risked death if they tried to continue their quest for education. It seemed as though th...

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An experiment to allow women in Afghanistan to help U.S. special forces during combat raids was a full-fledged program by the time the American military pulled out of the country in 2021. Sergeant Rebekah Edmondson was there as the Cultural Support Program began and Americans started training women from Afghanistan to became soldiers as part of the Female Tactical Platoon. In a candid interview, she gets honest...

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October 3, 2023 14 mins

When small business owner Doug Richmond heard the story of one Afghan father and how he risked his life helping Americans in their counterterrorism efforts, he was inspired to help his family. He realized the best thing he could do was to offer him a job in his business. It started with one hire, but Doug had no idea he would end up hiring a dozen men from the same Afghan special forces unit. Doug talks to Andr...

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October 3, 2023 25 mins

They’re known as Zero Units – forces of Afghan men who served in their country’s National Strike Units, the NSU. These specially trained counter-terrorism soldiers worked in cooperation with the U.S. military and intelligence communities.

In this episode, Andrea speaks with Geeta Bakshi, a former CIA operations manager and counterterrorism expert- code named "Blackbird." Bakshi has first-hand ...

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In our final bonus episode, host Andrea Smardon talks to one of the founders of the Blacksburg Refugee Partnership, the all-volunteer group that supports Sima and other veterans of the Afghan Female Tactical Platoon as they rebuild their lives in the U.S.

Co-founder Scott Bailey talks about how it all started with a conversation among concerned friends in church and shares the secrets to their organization&rsqu...

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