DENVER (CBS4) – Hundreds of Coloradans are rolling out the welcome mat for an Afghan interpreter and his family. CBS Denver has followed the extraordinary journey of Ahmad Siddiqi since it began last month. He escaped Afghanistan with the help of Army veteran Scott Henkel and his wife Heidi.
The two men forged a friendship 14 years ago when they served together in Afghanistan. Henkel says Siddiqi saved his life.
When the Taliban took control last month, the Henkils, of Broomfield, Colorado put their lives on hold and, using every connection they had, helped Siddiqi, his wife and four kids evacuate. The family is now headed to Colorado where their story has inspired a massive show of support.
Heidi says it’s been a whirlwind two weeks as coordinating donations has become a full-time job.
“We had bikes donated. We have had clothes. We had a car donated as well. It’s just been this outpouring of love.”
A local police officer and his wife even opened up their home to the Afghan family.
“I’ve been completely blown away by people’s generosity,” said Scott.
There’s a bunk bed and a playset for the kids, who Scott says no longer have to fear the Taliban.
“Can’t wait for them to go play and be free and safe.”
Local moms also donated Afghan spices and dresses for Siddiqi’s wife.
“It was really neat to have local mothers come together and say ‘How is the mother doing? Because we know there’s a large burden that she’s bearing as well,'” said Heidi. “One of the things I wanted to make sure is we had photos of his home where he grew up to make sure they had at least some sort of piece of home.”
A home that Scott says his friend will likely never return to.
“Our dream of going back one day and going fishing in some of these streams you see there, it’s never going to happen. Not in our lifetime, but I know and hear in his voice how excited he is to start his life here in America.”
Scott says he always knew he would see Siddiqi again.
“But never in my wildest dreams think he’d be a neighbor. How cool is that? We’re going to be better. I know we’re going to be better with Afghans in the community. Absolutely, we will be a better society and country.
The Henkels received so much interest in the Siddiqui family, they set up a Facebook page for them. Ahmad, they say, is already getting job offers since he speaks four languages. The children — who speak English — are already enrolled in a nearby elementary school.
The family should be here in the next couple weeks, and the Henkles are planning to reunite Scott’s entire Army team from Afghanistan to spend Thanksgiving with the Siddiqi’s.
The family is among 856 Afghan refugees who are expected to resettle in Colorado. The Metro Denver North Islamic Center set up a GoFundMe account to help the refugees.