The Tawakali children know from experience that learning a new language isn't easy. For this reason, Javed, Zoe, and Adeeb are giving back.

Their story begins in 1999, when their family left Afghanistan because their father, Ghulam Tawakali, was threatened by the Taliban.

The Tawakali children know from experience that learning a new language isn't easy. For this reason, Javed, Zoe, and Adeeb are giving back.

Their story begins in 1999, when their family left Afghanistan because their father, Ghulam Tawakali, was threatened by the Taliban.

At home, their father ran his own rice distribution business, and worked closely with the United Nations to help the visually impaired. He himself went blind in his late 20s.

"The Taliban is against Western influence, education," explained Javed, 24. "They only wanted you to go to the mosque and that's it … My father didn't believe in that."

For helping to educate women and children, Ghulam was visited not once, but four times by Taliban officials who were sent to his home to assassinate him. Twice, he was out of town for business. Other times, he managed to talk his way out of danger.

One thing was clear — it was time to uproot his family and bring them to safety in the U.S. He wanted others to have an education so they could be somebody in life and have their own family.

The children came to Rochester with their parents, aunt, and grandmother and moved from Charlotte to Brighton before settling in Perinton in 2004.

Learning English was the biggest hurdle for the newcomers. They were taught the basics by family friends but took years to grow comfortable with everyday conversation.

"I usually watched TV to help adapt to English because I was always far behind in reading and writing," said Zoe, 17, now a senior at Mercy High School.

Today, Adeeb, 14, attends Minerva DeLand School in Fairport. Javed, 24, graduated from SUNY Cortland in 2012 and plans to move to Chicago for a new job.

Each of the three siblings volunteer their time tutoring children through the Learning Links after-school program at the Pines of Perinton, where many non English speakers get help with their homework.

"As I grew older and became very fond of reading and writing, I started helping in the community because I was once helped, too," said Zoe.

She hopes to someday work with children as a pediatrician or physician's assistant and has also volunteered at Camp Haccamo, working with children with disabilities.

Brother, Adeeb, was once a student at Learning Links and has been a junior tutor for the last two years. He hopes to study American history and says he'd like to become a historian.

The eldest, Javed, tutored a student every week during college and was involved in Habitat for Humanity. His name tag at Learning Links that reads "Mr. Javed" is a fitting name for the "big kid" who helps youngsters with their homework every week. He encourages others to find ways to give back through volunteering.

"If you have time and you want to spend time with kids, what better way than to help them and be a role model," he said. "Help them succeed in future endeavors, whatever they are. It's like a chain and we're paying it forward."

Now that they're grown, they see themselves in the kids who need help, just like them. The journey through academia, and a whole new world altogether, can be difficult in a different environment.

The siblings say they have fortunately not been bullied or faced with prejudice as they adjusted to their new life. Zoe's advice for people on the other end? Three words: Patience, respect and kindness.

"No one ever knows anyone else's background. It's like judging a book by its cover, only it's not a book, it's a human they're judging by the way they look or act. You don't really know the inside story or how much they're struggling."