Lyla Kohistany and her family left Afghanistan in the 1980s, coming to the United States as refugees.
Following in the footsteps of her father, who was enlisted in the military in Afghanistan, Kohistany served in the U.S. Navy. When she saw Afghans, including military members, fleeing the country in 2021, it made her think of her own experience.
“I felt like history was repeating itself,” Kohistany said. “I felt like I had to act.”
Kohistany acted by co-founding Honor the Promise, a non-profit that helps resettle Afghan military members in the U.S. after they were evacuated by the government and other organizations. CEO Kohistany and cofounder Ashley Sogge lead the organization, which helps Afghan refugees find work and meet other needs so they can integrate into their new communities.
One of the ways Honor the Promise helps is to provide computers to the refugees, so they can work on language classes, apply for jobs, join Zoom calls and do all the little tasks that one needs to do in modern life.
The demand for these computers is great, and Kohistany knew she needed help. She initially reached out to Tech for Troops, a Virginia-based organization that helps transitioning servicemembers with training, education and technology, but they — like many organizations — were struggling to get laptops.
Her Tech for Troops connection led Kohistany to reach out to give IT. get IT., a Maine-based organization that helps families get the technology they need to further digital inclusion by putting tech in the hands of those in need.
“There was a need for high-quality, useable technology,” said Jim Darroch, spokesperson for give IT. get IT. “And we are glad to be able to help.”
So far, more than 90 Afghan refugees have received laptops, and more are on the way, Darroch said. In all, the group hopes to donate 200 laptops to Honor the Promise.
Give IT. get IT. relies on corporations donating their old equipment, which is then refurbished and repurposed. And since the pandemic, the demand for tech is skyrocketing, so the organization is always looking for corporations to partner with for donations.
The donations are invaluable to the refugees.
“A computer helped a lot, with every aspect of life during transition and so far,” said Matiurrahman Noori, a former member of Ktah Khas Afghanistan (KKA), a counterterrorism unit.
Noori worked closely with U.S. Special Operations forces in Afghanistan and was evacuated because his life was in danger. He works in a food packing plant now and has helped bring other Afghans to safety.
“Since I volunteered as a leader, many refugees call me to help with their work and legal status, such as help with translating their documents into English,” he said. “I’m proud that I can help them stay on the right track to solve their problems and meet their needs.”
Those needs are great.
Ahmad Khalid Noori, no relation to Matiurrahman Noori, is a former KKA service member who is currently the program manager at Honor the Promise. After Kabul fell to the Taliban, he fled to the U.S. with his wife and is currently living in Virginia, where he connected with Kohistany and her team.
“Everyone at the HTP team is committed to our Afghan SOF members and their families by providing various programs as they rebuild their lives in this country,” he said. “Being from the same community and handling the same difficulties as my Afghan brothers and sisters, I understand their journey, am able to communicate their needs, and develop programs that meet their needs.”
He said that living in the U.S., where nearly everything relies on technology, means having a computer is a mandatory part of life.
“After having a computer, I have been able to attend English courses, college classes, and professional development training so I can develop new skills that will help me transition from the military to the tech sector,” he said. Also, “(those who) have received these computers are now easily able to attend English classes, search and apply for jobs, apply for asylum online, and use it in other ways that help them better their lives in the U.S.”