Leaning back in his office chair and looking out at the city skyline, Obaid Rasoul recalls old memories of his journey from Afghanistan to Atlanta. When Obaid arrived in the U.S. as a refugee, he never dreamed that he would spend the next three decades welcoming other refugees. For thirty years, Obaid has worked in Lutheran Services of Georgia’s Refugee Services department, helping newly arrived refugees find employment and achieve self-sufficiency.
Back in Afghanistan, Obaid lived a busy life, working hard and raising two children. He graduated from the University of Kabul’s Faculty of Law and worked as a criminal lawyer for a year. Then, he took a job at the U.S. Embassy. In 1979, war tore through his country, turning his life upside-down. Obaid feared for his family’s safety. After his brother was executed, Obaid, his wife, and their 4-year-old son and 6-month-old daughter fled to neighboring Pakistan in search of peace.
Once in Pakistan, Obaid began to dream of a permanent home for his family. Originally, he wanted to resettle in France to be near some of his wife’s relatives. Yet one afternoon, as he walked through the city of Peshewar, his plans changed entirely. He passed a building with an American flag—the U.S. consulate’s office. He decided to go inside, where he managed to secure a meeting with the consulate. Obaid told the consulate about his past experience with the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan. After confirming his connections to the Embassy, the consulate granted Obaid and his family top priority to travel to the U.S. as refugees.
Finally, on April 29, 1983, Obaid and his family arrived in the United States, where they were resettled in Atlanta through the International Rescue Committee (IRC). After only five months in Atlanta, Obaid accepted a position as a job counselor at LSG. Today, Obaid is LSG’s longest-serving staff member and has become the Senior Employment Specialist!
Every day at LSG, Obaid accompanies other refugees on a journey he knows all too well. “We refugees should help each other. Since I came as a refugee myself, I use some of my experience as a refugee to help other refugees,” he said. Although Obaid’s work is challenging, he enjoys discovering the unique skills, experiences, and gifts that each refugee brings with them. “They bring something new to our society,” he mused. “ I learn from them too. I learn a lot from them.”
Thanks to Obaid’s many years of work with LSG, he is known throughout several of Georgia’s refugee communities. One afternoon, Obaid was visiting a largely Somalian area of Clarkston when a former refugee greeted him by name. “Mr. Obaid!,” he called out excitedly. “You got me a job 15 years ago and now I own my own business!” Obaid takes pride in the success of refugees who are using their gifts to build new lives for themselves in Georgia.
Lutheran Services of Georgia is grateful to Obaid for his passion, dedication, and hard work over the last thirty years!