Stories of WYWM - My Journey to WYWM by Tariq Zia

Mel O'Sullivan - December 3, 2021

I will start my story with a saying from #Rumi; “As you start to walk on the way, the way appears.” 

I, Mohammad Tariq Zia, was born in a middle-class, but educated family in Bamyan province of Afghanistan, my father was the only one working in our family, and I remember how he was struggling but never came down to pave the way for us to get us educated. From the very beginning days that I could define my left and right hand I decided to study and complete my higher education. 

After graduating from high school as Top Graduate and joining University, I started my career as a part-time Computer Operator at Ministry of Justice, Kabul, Afghanistan; in order to support financially my family, and to pay my studying tuition fees. After graduating from University majoring in Civil Engineering, thankfully once again as a Top Graduate, I started working in construction field as Structure Design Engineer and then as Project Manager at Ministry of Urban Development & Land (MUDL), Kabul, Afghanistan. Once my Contract finished I started working as Interpreter/translator (supervisor, Team-Leader) for Australian and Coalition Forces at different basses in Afghanistan. 

As the NATO and their counter-parts announced their withdrawal from Afghanistan, many of my co-workers lost their jobs and went home. I was one of the very few interpreters still on work, day by day the security situation was getting worse; I was receiving more than 10 phone calls from my colleagues to ask the Mentors about our Visa applications, as I was referring to them, they also couldn’t answer us. It was just the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, same as my colleagues, I was also waiting for my own Visa but there were no updates; even after sending more than ten emails to the Department of Home Affairs. 

This was exactly the time where I realized that; as individuals our voices will not be heard. Thus I decided to grab all my colleagues and raise our voices together to rescue ourselves from a certain death. With the ongoing situation in Kabul, it was really difficult to bring a large number of interpreters together; it was difficult to trust, where we are going? If our identities got disclosed, if the bad guys (Insurgents,Taliban, ISIS, Haqani-Network…etc.) find about us, what would have happened to us all? What you can imagine is; we all would have been killed and prosecuted. 

So, I stepped forward and did this initiation, I decided to invite a few of my co-workers first to my house to share my ideas with and ask them what do they think, as I told them what my plan is, they all agreed and said; write whatever you want and we all will sign. After having their ideas, I wrote a general statement (Dire Threat), created a WhatsApp group and added all of them to that WhatsApp group, there were 62 interpreters including 3 females, I taught it was safer to have them together online and I could easily get back to them to have their ideas. Once everyone was happy with what we had wrote, I created an email address by the name of QAATBWADF interpreters and submitted that joint statement to each and every email addresses I had as point of contact to Australian Government. Meanwhile, I found a link to one of the writers of The Guardian (Kate Banville), through one of my friends (Naveed Arman) who was also an interpreter. We sent the joint statement to her; luckily, it was published by the Guardian 1. In the meantime, I got connected to one of the Journalists of Channel 10, by the name Soraya Lennie, they were/are having a program broadcasting by the name of The Project, I had an interview with one of their Journalists in Kabul, due to the security threats we were facing, it was a very risky one, I had to cover my face and keep my identity hidden, fortunately that interview was also broadcasted 2.  

By applying multiple pressures from different channels, we finally got a reply from The Department of Home Affairs, Australia. Adding that; “our cases will be processed under exceptional circumstances and soon we will receive our medical appointments, and visas will be granted after.” That was exactly the time when I realized the outcome of teamwork; I can’t describe how much I, my friends and their families were happy, how our hopes were alive once again. Fortunately, it all worked, we were able to make it happen, and all the guys in our group got evacuated to Australia one after another 3, now they have started their new life in Australia. I arrived to Melbourne on 26/June/2021; I was planning how to start my new life and career here, as I couldn’t include my family (parents & siblings) in my application due to the policy for Applications, which are left in Afghanistan, and as my father had retired, I was the only one working in our family. Therefore, I had to find a job to support them financially, I started working as Pick-Packer in a factory, but that was not where I was stopping, I was trying to get my overseas Engineering diploma verified. In the meantime I was doing some translations for Channel 10. One of my Aussie mentors sent me the link of WYWM website and asked me to sign in to the platform, she told me they are looking to hire some interpreters for the translation of their courses, this was exactly the time when I got connected to WithYouWithMe. 

After signing the platform I made a phone a call to Rebekah and told her about my background and experiences, a month later, I got an email from her that they are looking for someone to hire as Afghan Training Program Manager, she said, “as you can speak both Dari & Pashto languages, I taught of you, if you are interested, book an interview”, after having a couple of interviews with her and Julian, and the culture fit interview, I was selected as the best eligible candidate for this position. 

Now, As Afghan Training Program Manager, the mission & responsibilities, I have ahead is way challenging, but I am sure; with the experience, capabilities, network of contacts, and more importantly working alongside a dedicated team of WYWM, I am sure, I will succeed in achieving my goals & objectives, and our organizational vision. In order to succeed in my role it’s important to understand the core values of our organization (WYWM), to understand that; for me, it’s to answer the following questions; 

Where do we want the Organization to go? What can we realistically achieve? And finally, what problems does the organization intend to solve? 

I, as Afghan Training Program manager, will try to have WYWM as a creative organization to create job opportunities for every member of workforce and create a better life for Afghan refugees, and to community. More importantly, to have a positive impact on lives of a huge number of people lived in the third world. So, I can feel like I have done something extraordinary to my people and those who need our support. 

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