To help a family who aided the US mission in Afghanistan, the volunteer dentists at Dentists on Wheels perform the first root canal at the Dentists on Wheels Pittsburg Free Dental Clinic at St. Vincent de Paul. Photo by Dylan Bouscher, Courtesy to SVdP

Due to privacy and safety concerns, the names in this story have been changed.

On October 14th, 2021, the first root canal was performed at Dentists on Wheels Pittsburg Free Dental Clinic at St. Vincent de Paul.

“I’ve been dealing with this horrible tooth pain for over a year now,” Amir Hazrat said. “The pain has been really bad, it’s been hard to even think sometimes.”

Amir said his tooth pain came coupled with severe pain in his right arm and right leg. He has recently been able to see a doctor for an MRI scan to find the cause of his pain.

The Hazrat family first found St. Vincent de Paul of Contra Costa County during the pandemic, when they were referred to SVdP by 211. The family approached the local SVdP branch at the St. Joan of Arc church in San Ramon – and were met with compassionate assisted by the group of dedicated SVdP volunteer “Vincentians” in San Ramon.

“We met a volunteer named John Taillac, and he was so kind and understanding,” Ilham Hazrat said. “They have helped us so much, it is impossible to say how nice they have been. They have helped us with our rent, and with food and now they are helping us treat my husband’s tooth pain.”

The Hazrat family received food and rental assistance aid, allowing them to stretch their budget and stay in their home. Immigrants from Afghanistan, the Hazrat family had provided aid to the United States during our mission in Afganistan, and the family was forced to move to US after credible threats were made against their safety.

“The Taliban made threats against our family for helping the US military,” Ilham said. “It’s impossible to really describe how dangerous it is in Afghanistan, and how dangerous the Taliban are. They don’t make empty threats.”

Ilham said her family worked as translators for the United States military. She said the threats made against her family make them want to protect their privacy, but that they wanted to share what the help they have received from SVdP has meant to them.

“When we received help from St. Vincent de Paul with our rent, that was a huge relief for our family,” Ilham said. “Just having one less stressor right now is a big relief. I’m extremely grateful for the kindness SVdP and the dentists have shown our family.”

Amir and Ilham said the family’s income during the pandemic came largely by working for Uber and Lyft but the idea of driving others around in the family’s only vehicle during the height of the pandemic was a terrifying prospect. Amir said finding alternative work that pays enough to provide for his family, however, has been extremely difficult, especially while dealing with extreme tooth pain.

Ilham said, “When the pandemic started my husband was driving for Uber, but with COVID going around I was so scared that he would bring the disease home to our children I asked him to stop and find other work.”

Ilham said she found SVdP by calling 211 at a time when their family was at the end of their rope. Ilham said dealing with school closures affecting her children and personal tragedy in their family was too much to handle all at once.

“When we came to the United States, we were hopeful we would have better opportunities for ourselves and for our family,” Amir said. “We were getting by before the pandemic started, but when COVID hit everything in our life just started to get worse.”

The Hazrat’s had 3 children, two boys and a 14-month-old daughter. They would lose their daughter to illness during the pandemic, a loss the family is still struggling to recover from.

“Our family was perfect and complete,” Ilham said. “But then we lost our daughter, and it’s been so hard to get by without her.”
Amir said, “Everything has been so hard to handle since the loss of our daughter – our grief has been overwhelming. My wife is in tears all the time, I’ve been dealing with so much pain, and our other children are too young to really understand what has happened and why mom and dad are so hurt.”

The Hazrats said they feel incredibly relieved, however, from the compassion, emotional support and aid they have received from SVdP and Dentist on Wheels volunteers. While Amir was unable to speak after his root canal, Ilham said she is certain having his tooth pain dealt with will help her family move forward and begin to build better lives here in the US.