NORTHBOROUGH – On a fall Sunday, Northborough community members gathered at Trinity Church of Northborough for a celebration.
This was a special celebration to mark the one year anniversary since they decided to form the Neighborhood Support Team (NST) Northborough, which helped support Afghan refugees Rose and Mark Amiri.
“We all took a huge risk. We didn’t know what to expect, and it’s all come together,” said then Co-Chair of NST John Posluszny. “The level of effort that people have put into ensuring that we are successful in what we are doing has just blown me away.”
Rose and Mark’s story
The Amiris were able to come to the United States on Sept. 5, 2021.
They stayed in Fort Dix in New Jersey for about five months. In January, they came to Massachusetts. Rose and Mark stayed in a hotel for about a week until they ultimately moved to Northborough.
“Everything at first was hard for me. Everything. Especially culture, language, everything,” Rose said. “But the group is very helpful to me. They taught me what’s the culture here.”
The food is different, she said, but the NST has helped show her what stores were good.
“Now, I’m relaxed,” Rose said.
After staying at the hotel, their caseworker informed them that there was a Northborough woman — Mary Kemp — who opened her house to have them stay with her.
Before NST knew that Rose and Mark specifically were coming to Northborough, the team worked on finding an affordable place for the family to live.
“Mary had said, ‘You know what, I’ve got this big house, and I can bring people in,’” Posluszny recalled.
So, the team reached out to the agency WelcomeNST to let them know about Kemp’s offer. According to Posluszny, the agency said they felt that the Amiris would be a good match for this housing situation.
Kemp went to the hotel where they were staying on Feb. 8 and took them home with her.
“I met with her, and I decided that she was very nice,” said Rose.
School for Mark was the most important thing for Rose, who was a teacher in Afghanistan. Mark was enrolled in school right away, days after they arrived in town.
“It was a real success. He loves school,” Posluszny said. “As a young boy, he’s able to pick up the language very quickly.”
WelcomeNST gave the Northborough team guidance on how to successfully execute their plan, including what committees should be set up with specific responsibilities.
Kemp and Jean Leif, who are on the administration committee, organized with Ascentria Care Alliance on the team’s responsibilities to help Rose become qualified for food stamps and funds available from the state and federal government.
Members taught Rose English. They helped her get a job at Macy’s and later a job at Algonquin Regional High School. They helped celebrate both Rose and Mark’s birthdays.
“They are my real family,” said Rose.
She’s taking a language course at Assabet Valley Regional High School. Part of the team worked together to help Rose acquire a driver’s permit, which she passed and became eligible for her license six months later in August.
Posluszny said the team wanted to get Rose a car. The team used $10,000 from their fundraising account to purchase a car for Rose.
“Now, I’m independent,” said Rose.
They stayed with Kemp for about three months until they moved into an apartment. The NST members helped paint and clean Rose’s apartment. A lot of the furniture came from Fresh Start in Hudson, according to NST member Martha Michalewich.
Since moving to Northborough, Rose has been able to talk with her family back in Afghanistan.
“I hope one day they will also join me, especially my younger sister,” said Rose.
Relationships have been the best part of this experience, according to Posluszny.
“All the people on the team are just so nice, kind people just to sign up to do it, and then to get to know people from all over Northborough that all wanted to participate and have a hand in bringing an Afghan refugee family to our community, helping them. I’ve got new friendships that I know will last a life time. Just wonderful people,” he said.
Posluszny continued, “And Rose is so grateful. She just, I think, really loves all of us, the entire team.”
Community members can still help support Rose and Mark and NST’s efforts by visiting https://secure.givelively.org/teams/ascentria-care-alliance/help-afghan-families/nst-northboro.