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Supporting Our Neighbors: An Update on Walmart’s Work to Welcome Afghan Refugees

Ahmed Nabizada Headshot

Ahmed Nabizada remembers standing in the candle section on one of his days as a Walmart department manager. As he looked at the rows of candles of all shapes and sizes, he worried. Originally from Kabul, Afghanistan, he had just moved to the United States from Pakistan. He was concerned his first job was going to be a failure, because there were simply too many candles to sell.

Eventually, he worked up the courage to talk to his manager. Electricity was available everywhere, so why would anyone ever buy a candle?

To his relief, his manager explained the candles were used for their scent – not for lighting, as had been the case in Afghanistan.

Ahmed, now the store manager at Walmart Supercenter 2038 in Sterling, Virginia, can laugh about it today. In his store, where associates hail from more than 50 countries, he has told the story dozens of times. His message is simple: At Walmart, you can be whatever you want to be. There’s a path for you here. If you’re willing to ask questions and learn, you’re going to be just fine.

We’ve always been proud to support our communities and our country, and we’re uniquely positioned to help refugees fleeing Afghanistan in search of a fresh start in the U.S. Whether our new neighbors need day-to-day essentials, life-saving medicine or simply the opportunity to build a career, we’re prepared to help.

Earlier this year, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation contributed a total of $1.5 million to support incoming refugees, our veterans and their families.

Since our last update, we’ve focused on two main areas: 1.) Supporting refugees on military bases as they first arrive in the U.S. and 2.) preparing our associates and communities to welcome our new neighbors once they’ve left the bases and settled in their new homes around the country.

Walmart continues to support the mission of the Welcome.US coalition, which is focused on supporting the growing movement to help our new Afghan neighbors start their new lives. We’re proud to be among the first companies to join and work side-by-side with national resettlement agencies, military bases, the White House, national NGOs and other corporations to shape the Welcome.US/exchange platform, which matches needs with resources.

We’re also looking for ways we can leverage our resources to provide more direct support. For example, at Fort Pickett in Virginia and Fort McCoy in Wisconsin, our Health & Wellness teams have provided medical items to thousands of refugees living on base as part of Operation Allies Welcome. And Walmart’s Registry for Good connects nonprofits supporting Afghan refugees with our customers who want to donate and help with needed supplies. Since September, customers have donated through two registries supporting refugee efforts: Catholic Charities of the Diocese of La Crosse Inc and the Salvation Army in Wisconsin.

As refugees leave bases in the weeks ahead, we’re preparing to support our new neighbors through access to jobs where they can apply existing skills and learn new ones. Associates in our stores are receiving training to make sure they’re ready to support the unique needs of these new associates. Our People associates have been trained in everything from working with nontraditional forms of identification to supporting associates who have endured trauma. It’s all aimed at making Walmart a place where everyone has the opportunity to grow and thrive.

Ahmed’s story is not unique – nor should it be. Whether we’re serving our veterans or our new neighbors, we take pride in the fact that our stores reflect the communities we serve and we look forward to continuing that legacy in the months ahead.