Richmond grad earns $10,000 podcast prize telling stories of Afghan women

Posted at 12:22 PM, Sep 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-30 17:43:58-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- University of Richmond graduate Lina Tori Jan produces a podcast with a purpose. Her podcast, Chai wa Dastan (which translates to tea and tale) is dedicated to highlighting the stories of immigrants and refugee women from Afghanistan.

"I don't ever believe that the story of an immigrant or refugee is ever a story of victimization, but rather a story of empowerment," she said.

Lina Tori Jan

Tori Jan grew up in Kabul, Afghanistan.

During her high school years, she moved to the United States to pursue her education.

"My family was one of the families who got on the C-17 and left the country," she said. "A lot of [my relatives] have been traumatized, including my own nieces and nephews, who were five and three years old. [They] saw people shot near them during this evacuation."

When her family resettled in the US, they not only needed food, housing, and other necessities, but also a community -- a safe space to share stories of their struggles and triumphs.

"It was already hard to find a sense of community in this new host country that you're in. But I think the pandemic has now put another set of barriers," she said.

Tori Jan launched projects to connect other Afghan women before the pandemic, but COVID isolation forced her to take those connections online.

Hence -- the podcast.

Lina Tori Jan

"You hear the stories that nobody would ever want to leave their home had they had the opportunity to stay," she said. "But in the midst of all this, it just shows the resilience the grit of these women, the journey that they go through to pull their families."

Resilience and grit are two words that describe Tori Jan.

From leaving Afghanistan, to earning a degree from the University of Richmond, and a Master's degree from the University of Oxford, she is proud of her accomplishments.

"These are just things that may be normal in this country, but from somebody from my background, it's not very easy," she said.

In recognition of her work, Tori Jan recently received a $10,000 grant from "Projects for Peace" to support her podcast.