Germanna grad makes his dream come true. Now he’s helping Afghanistan refugees do the same

by | Jan 1, 2023 | Business, Germanna

From Germanna Community College:

When Babu Brar arrived in Stafford County in 1995 from his native Punjab, India he had $200 in his pocket and no place to live. 

But he believed in America fervently.  

Through sheer force of will, he made his American dream come true.  Now he’s helping Afghan refugees do the same. 

 For three years, the Sikh electrical engineer and Indian army veteran worked three jobs, seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m, going back and forth from a 7-Eleven to a gas station to a Jiffy Lube, picking up hours wherever he could and saving his money. He did well with Jiffy Lube, becoming a manager of the year. 

For years, he worked to bring the family to the United States from India and now 22 relatives have come to America, starting one business after another. 

Brar had begun taking classes at Germanna Community College in 1999, and when some of his relatives wanted to get commercial driver’s licenses, he decided to start his own CDL school. He 

learned that he had already taken some of the driving, business, and English classes he needed, and he returned to GCC for more. 

He and his family now own national trucking businesses with over 30 vehicles, he says. 

“Germanna was the starting point for everything,” Brar says, adding that faculty member Tina Lance was essential for him. 

Brar said Lance, now Dean of Workforce Development at Germanna, encouraged him, teaching several of his business classes and helping him determine what other classes he needed to be successful. He has transferred to the University of Mary Washington, where he’s working toward a business degree. 

 “Over the last 22 years [since beginning to take classes at Germanna] he continued his education while working toward owning his own business,” Lance says. “Through perseverance and dedication, he graduated with an associate degree in Spring 2021 and achieved Dean’s List recognition. He is truly an example of the entrepreneurial spirit.” 

He’s doing more than making money. He’s making a difference. 

Brar said his truck driving school helps 18-20 Afghanistan refugees a month earn truck- and bus-driving credentials so they can support their families. He employs Afghan immigrants as instructors so there are no language barrier problems. Some of his instructors and students were interpreters for American forces until the U.S. pulled out of Afghanistan. Some of his students were evacuated during the final days of the American presence there. 

2020 CDL truck driving instructor Rahimullah Akhonzada said he and other instructors speak Pashto and Dari so there is no language barrier. He said all the instructors and students who worked as interpreters for U.S. forces are worried about relatives left behind in Afghanistan and hope to bring them to America. 

He says he’s worried about his own family members still in Afghanistan. He helped “both sides” communicate, he says, but his family is paying a price. 

 “My parents, my sister, and my brother are there,” Akhonzada says. Because I worked for U.S. forces, it’s very hard for them… [And] There is no way how to get them out.” 

Another Afghan instructor at the school, Safiullah Ahmadi, says he enjoys being able to help other Afghan refugees here, “filling out paperwork, translating for them when they go to the doctor, that kind of stuff. We help a lot of people who can’t speak English.” 

 At the truck-driving school, says Ahmadi, “we have many people, many students from Afghanistan [who came] during the evacuation from Afghanistan. “They learn how to drive the truck and get a license.” 

Ahmadi laughs when he recalls being anxious when he visited Kabul a few years ago after being away for some time and had to drive in city traffic there again: “Driving is really crazy back there. You don’t have a lot of traffic signals and lines… If you can drive in Kabul, you can drive anywhere in the world.” 

Germanna President Janet Gullickson says: “Mr. Brar’s success is a testament to Germanna’s being in the community for good. Our students stay here and contribute here. We are delighted by his achievements and the accomplishments of all Germanna students.” 

Photos courtesy Germanna Community College

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