Rokhan’s Inspiring Journey: From Kabul to the Skies of Manchester
At just 12 years old, Rokhanulla Amrkhill left behind his homeland, Afghanistan, during the 2021 U.S. military withdrawal from Kabul. He embarked on a new chapter, leaving his entire family behind, with only his 23-year-old uncle accompanying him to the United States.
The initial weeks in Manchester were a transitional period, with a stay in a motel that soon changed when his uncle secured a job, allowing them to move into an apartment. However, Rokhan often found himself alone at the apartment as his uncle’s job kept him away for extended periods.
Rokhan’s life brightened when he started school, as it meant being around kids his age and an end to the initial loneliness that comes with relocating to a new country. However, as summer approached, he didn’t look forward to it, as it meant no school and spending a lot of time alone at home.
But before the school year ended, Rokhan joined other refugee children on an outing to the Aviation Museum of N.H. Organized by volunteers from the International Institute of New England, the trip became a turning point for Rokhan.
At the museum, the children learned about aviation and the history of flight from museum staff and volunteers. As an activity, and as a nod to their Afghan heritage, they built kites—a time-honored ritual among Afghan families, but banned under Taliban rule.
The students also enjoyed pizza outside, right next to the big jets taking off and landing on Runway 17-35 at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport.
The outing had a profound impact on Rokhan. The experience of visiting the Aviation Museum and the airport awakened something. He couldn’t stop talking about it. Rokhan even made the museum visit his Facebook profile picture. It was clear he had discovered a passion for aviation.
Volunteers from the International Institute remained in touch with us—and we believed Rokhan belonged at our upcoming 2023 ‘Flights of Discovery’ Summer Camp.
Recognizing the financial constraints he faced, the Aviation Museum was able to award Rokhan a full scholarship. He attended the camp and had an unforgettable experience, as you can see from the pictures. He participated in a wide range of activities covering everything from the physics of flight to airport design. He met pilots, air traffic controllers, aviation mechanics, airport firefighters, and many other professionals who inspired Rokhan and the other camp participants.
But the true impact became evident in August, after camp was over, when we received a heartwarming letter from one of the IINE volunteers.
She informed us that Rokhan had thought his summer would be sad and lonely. Instead, it was “the best summer of his life.” We could not imagine a better outcome, and consider the financial aid awarded to Rokhan a worthy investment in the next generation of aviation and aerospace professionals.
Rokhan’s journey is just beginning. We hope to welcome him back at next year’s camp, and have offered him membership in the Aviation Museum’s “Yellowbird Society” of future aviators. Here, he’ll join like-minded teenagers to learn about aviation careers, networking, critical thinking, and problem-solving.
Our goal is to assist Rokhan in every way possible on his path toward a career in aviation.
Because of his story, Rokhan was invited to speak to attendees of the Aviation Museum’s annual Gala, held in October in a glitzy ballroom at the DoubleTree by Hilton in downtown Manchester.
Although he’s still learning English and is not quite fluent yet, Rokhan came to the podium and confidently told the story of how the Aviation Museum’s summer camp program made a difference in his life, thanking everyone for their support.
The standing ovation he received was not solely for Rokhan, but was for all the young people, now and in the future, who will follow his example of resilience, hope, and the boundless possibilities of the human spirit.
Rokhan’s story is a testament to the life-changing impact of our programs. He has shown us why we need to keep working tirelessly to make a difference in the lives of New Hampshire’s children. We extend our gratitude to Rokhan for being a part of our camp and for reminding us of the importance of our mission.
Together, we’re shaping a brighter future for young minds like his, ensuring they soar to new heights.
—Debbora Losch, education director