August 26, 2020
Article by Jerome Bizimana, World Relief Staff Member
Our feature this month is the firsthand account of life as a refugee from World Relief staff member, Jerome Bizimana. Read about his struggle to escape hate and violence in what felt at times like a hopeless quest for peace.
It was 1996 and the war had just broken out. The Democratic Republic of the Congo had always been my home, but it was a brutal, bloody war, and it was too dangerous to stay in the country, so my family and I fled. For the next nineteen years we lived in one Tanzanian refugee camp after another. When one camp closed, we packed up and moved to another. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a life away from the war.
One night in 2012, I was attacked by criminals at my home. Luckily, nearby police officers were able to save me from harm, but my assailants escaped. Before fleeing, they told me that they would kill me. They told me that they had to “terminate my life,” but never gave a reason why. My heart was broken, and from that day forward, I lived in constant fear. I couldn’t sleep, and many nights I would go to bed wondering if I would wake safely in the morning.
My eyes are wet with tears as I write this. I do not usually talk about my past. I prefer to forget the thirty-one years of my life that I lived hopelessly, but I hope that sharing my story will help others by bringing awareness to the need for refugee resettlement support.
July 30, 2020
Article by Emily Miller, World Relief Staff Member
Our feature this month is a story of perpetual giving. Read how a young woman has overcome obstacles during the pandemic and is now mobilizing support for others in need.
Brenda’s heart sank when she logged on to her bank’s mobile app. She had been working at a laundromat, diligently saving extra pennies, when the unthinkable happened: the COVID-19 pandemic swept into Illinois. Her work hours were cut in half, several of her friends contracted the virus, and Brenda’s comfortable housing arrangement suddenly became unstable after three of her housemates decided to move away.
I have been Brenda’s case manager since October 2019, starting after she was granted asylum in the United States. After her arrival and prior to the pandemic, twenty-year-old Brenda had made great strides toward stability while settling into life in the Chicago area. She had established care with clinicians, started working, and had connected with a local church.
May 27, 2020
Article by Robert Carroll
In this month's feature, read how twin sisters from Iran went from religious refugees who couldn't speak English to important front line workers in the fight against COVID-19. Click here for COVID-19 resources in over 20 languages, or click here to learn what items you can donate to help families in need during this time.
Sona Barichi can’t hug her young son when she gets home from work even though he cries for her and doesn’t understand. She has to take a shower first. She keeps her clothes and shoes in the garage until they’ve aired out for at least twenty-four hours, and then she washes them separately from her family’s laundry to prevent contamination. After she is convinced that she no longer carries any germs from her long shift at work, she can finally greet her family. She can finally hug her son.
Sona must take these precautions because she is a respiratory therapist at Delnor Hospital in Geneva who continues to work every day with COVID-19 patients. Her twin sister, Hana, works as a phlebotomist for Elmhurst Hospital, and she, too, is taking care of COVID-19 patients daily. Both sisters, they tell me, are doing their absolute best to help every single person that comes in through their hospital’s door, regardless of race, religion, or country of origin. As religious refugees from Iran, they know all too well what it feels like to be shoved aside, to be forgotten, to be refused. They also know what it feels like to be in danger.
February 26, 2020
Article by Amy Ullo, Communications Manager for workNet DuPage
For this month's feature, we welcome guest writer, Amy Ullo, Communications Manager for workNet DuPage. Located in Lisle, IL, the workNet DuPage Career Center is home to several organizations working in partnership to provide employment services for employers and job seekers in DuPage County. workNet DuPage is a valued partner of World Relief.
February 14 has a special meaning for a refugee family in DuPage County.
Valentine’s Day signifies more than the wedding anniversary of Lian Mung and Sian Nu, a young couple from Myanmar (also known as Burma): it’s the date they arrived in the United States seeking safety from violence and persecution.
For the past half century, ethnic and religious conflicts have forced hundreds of thousands of Myanmarese to uproot their lives trying to escape devastating human rights abuses.
Lian, a Christian worship leader, fled his homeland in Tedim, Chin State, a mountainous northwestern tribal area of Myanmar. In 2008, he made the treacherous journey to Malaysia by way of Thailand smuggled in a van during the day and on foot at night in the jungle. At only 24 years of age, Lian left behind his wife, his mother, two younger sisters, and the only life he had ever known.
December 21, 2019
Article by Robert Carroll
In this month's feature, read how a high school senior from Syria rose to the top of his graduating class just three years after arriving in the United States as a refugee with no English and only a few years of standardized schooling. This young man and his four siblings were enrolled in school and joined an after-school homework club that further ignited his intense passion for learning and helping others. Read on to learn more about the impact you make possible when you partner with World Relief.
Mohammad Marie looks and acts like a typical high school senior—one that has spent his entire life living and learning in the United States. When I meet him, he’s wearing a hoodie, blue jeans, and tennis shoes. His backpack is loose on his shoulders. He owns an iPhone and he carries a pair of Apple airpods in his pocket. He greets his friends with high-fives, and he jokes lovingly with teachers using American slang and gestures. He has an Arabic accent, but his English is otherwise impeccable.
But Mohammad Marie is not a typical high school senior.
Mohammad and his family, which includes three brothers and a young sister, fled war-torn Syria earlier in the decade in order to seek safety in the neighboring country of Jordan.
“We left Syria because of huge civil war,” he explains. “The people were fighting the government. The government was of course stronger. They had a lot of heavy missiles and they started shooting people and shooting houses down and stuff.”
Mohammad is a charismatic young man who usually speaks with excitement. He’s usually very animated. But when he recounts the war in Syria for me, his tone is sober and his face lacks expression. The way he says “and stuff” seems to cut right to the truth of the matter. What more does one have to say after “heavy missiles” and “shooting people and houses down?” If I haven’t gotten the point by then, it’s likely that I never would.
November 20, 2019
Article by Robert Carroll
Photographs by Roxanne Engstrom
In this month's feature, read how one exceptional woman rebuilt her life here in the United States, found the mental healthcare she needed, and overcame the odds stacked against her. Then, at the end of the article, please enjoy the poem, "A Lonely Girl," written by this remarkable person in both English and her native language of Urdu.
Thanks to partners like you, World Relief is able to provide needed counseling for refugees and other immigrants struggling to find help for the mental and emotional trauma that they have experienced.
Nazish is a poet both in words and action—gentle, calm, contemplative, deliberate. English is her second language, but she wields metaphor and turns phrases with charming purpose—an astonishing thing to witness considering she will occasionally pause mid-sentence to find the correct vocabulary. It’s like her heart knows the rhythm of what she wants to say long before her mind can find the words, and her soul is patient enough to make it work.
When Nazish enters the room and meets me for the first time, she smiles warmly, but I can see that behind her smile is uncertainty. I’ve been told she’s a bit nervous to sit down and conduct the interview, but I’ve also been told she’s eager to share her story. According to those that know Nazish, she has decided that she will no longer let fear prevent her from being a positive example for all the refugee women silently suffering from the untreated effects of mental illness. Before her own treatment, the fear she now conquers on a daily basis would most certainly have kept her at home rather than here now, sitting across from me, a stranger, to whom she will soon divulge details of a deeply personal persuasion about an often stigmatized condition for which many parts of the world, including her country of origin, still want her to feel shame.
So, in many ways, Nazish is also a warrior.
October 15, 2019
In honor of Veterans' Day next month, we're proud to share this first-hand account of one refugee's escape from an Iranian prison and his quest to fight for the freedom of others as a member of the United States military.
The Iranian interrogator held up a ballpoint pen and warned me of its power.
“Can you see the small metal ball on the head of this pen?" he asked. "I can break your neck with this small metal ball. I only have to write two paragraphs and you'll be gone forever.”
After forty-six days of interrogation and torture, I knew that he wasn't lying. He could do whatever he wanted to me. There were no laws stopping him. He put his pen to paper and within a few hours, I found myself in Evin Prison, the scariest prison in the world.
But I was happy.
September 25, 2019
The crisis in Venezuela was born during the presidency of Hugo Chávez, but it did not end with his reign. More than six years after Chávez’s death, the situation in Venezuela is worse than ever, and the economic fallout is considered by many to be more severe than that of the United States during the Great Depression, or that of Russia following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Marked by hyperinflation, escalating starvation, disease, crime, political persecution, and rising mortality rates, there appears to be no immediate solution in sight, and this has resulted in massive emigration from the country.
Isabella Martinez was one of the many that fled Venezuela while the country continued to unravel.
“After Chávez died,” she explains, “the political situation got even worse. Things started to go bad for anyone who didn’t support the ruling party.”