CHARLOTTE-- The group eagerly awaited the arrival of an 11:20 a.m. flight from Dulles. They made sure they had the right escalator and then they watched. The group was part of "Solace for the Children," a non-profit that's been bringing children to America for life-saving medical care since 1997.
And then, as they're eyes are fixed, they see Hemi Dula descend down the escalator with a bright smile on his face. Some U.S. Marines discovered him in Afghanistan and knew his health was serious enough for Solace to accept him.
"They [U.S. military] have become very instrumental in helping us identify the needs of the children over there," said Sandy Tabor-Gray. She's been part of the program for years. Two of her children and her husband were part of the airport crowd welcoming and photographing Hemi.
"There's nothing in words I can say to my boys that is ever going to give them that sense of what that feels like. So really this is one of the ways that I can do that for them," said Roni LaBarbera, the hosting the translator who will help Hemi at his doctor's appointments. LaBarbera's two sons approach Hemi immediately and began talking about the American iconic games they will play. "First is XBOX," one of them said.
But at Hemi's side was 19-year-old Zaman Rashid. Zaman translates for Hemi and tells the host families that Hemi is eager to celebrate New Year's and won't be scared of the fireworks.
Five years ago, Zaman was in Hemi's shoes. Zaman had multiple surgeries in Pakistan to remove a tumor on his sinuses. "I had no hope," he said. "I wouldn't go to school. I just wanted to die. But hopefully, finally and fortunately Solace for the Children found me and brought me to the U.S."
Now, Zaman is back in America studying at Central Piedmont Community College and eager to return to Afghanistan with something that will help others. "It's very hard to leave your parents, your country, your friends, but I want to go back some day and help them," he said. "I'm not that hopeless guy anymore. I've seen the world."
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