‘They believed in me’: Once jailed by the Taliban, refugee finds family at Starbucks

Editor’s note: On World Refugee Day, June 20, as Starbucks announces a commitment to hire 2,500 refugees in Europe by 2022, we are highlighting stories of refugees and their journeys to find new homelands. This is the story of Aref, a Starbucks partner working in France. His full name is being withheld.

My name is Aref, and I’m from Afghanistan. I was born in Orozgan.

After completing my studies, I got a job in Kabul in 2012 where I worked in logistics for a large company. In 2013, the Taliban came to where I used to work and arrested everyone. They bombed one truck, and I was sent to jail. After two days, I learned that the company had paid the Taliban to set us free. It was then I decided to leave Afghanistan.

I began a long journey across several countries to get to Europe. It wasn’t easy, but after two and a half years I managed to get my refugee papers. During this time, I learned to speak French by speaking with homeless people in the streets. It was also around this time I learned that my house in Afghanistan was burned by the Taliban with my mother inside. My brother is still in Afghanistan.

In France, I discovered I loved the Starbucks brand, and I wanted to learn more about coffee. Coffee is very important to me because coffee is everywhere in the world! On my first day at Starbucks, I was very happy and I was proud to put on the green apron. I posted to Facebook to let all my friends know about my new job. It was a very special day that I will never forget, especially because it was also my birthday!

Starbucks is very important to me because it’s the first time that I’ve ever had a permanent contract. They believed in me. At Starbucks, it feels like I’m part of a big family. Everybody is very respectful and nice to each other. It’s a real pleasure to come here every day.

I’m very happy to be part of the Starbucks family, and I hope that other refugees will get the same chance that I got.

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First-ever Starbucks North America Barista Championship is a celebration of our partners