Trauma, Suffering, and the Fight for One's Own Soul: Nazish's Story

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.

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From Prisoner to Patriot

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.

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Crisis in Venezuela

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.”

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October 10, 2011

This year, World Relief DuPage/Aurora has served over 1,600 refugees and over 4,200 immigrants; however, we cannot welcome the stranger on our own. While “thank you” is not enough for all that our partners have contributed, we are truly thankful for all of our volunteers and donors who support this ministry. Your generosity has resulted in new citizens, new jobs, a new ability to speak English, and new dreams being born as old wounds are healed—-meet Hoda, Awet, Michael, and Tilia.

The Journey from Outcast to Citizenship
*For the protection of the client, we have changed her name to Hoda for the purpose of retelling her story.

As followers of the Mandean faith, a Gnostic religion originating in Jordan, Hoda* and her family were treated like outcasts in Iran.  Her children were ostracized at school, the family was harassed by their neighbors, and their home was vandalized.  In 2007, Hoda and her three young children arrived in the U.S. as refugees, but her eldest son and husband stayed behind.  In Iran, men cannot get a passport unless they serve in the army.  As a result, Hoda’s son enlisted and his father stayed with him in Iran— despite the struggle to find work as a non-Muslim. Through WRDA programs and services, Hoda received the tools she needed to start over.  She got a job, learned to drive, and purchased a car; however, her biggest challenge was reuniting her family.

When her son’s military service was complete, Immigrant Legal Services [ILS] at WRDA applied for family reunification.  Her son was accepted as a refugee and arrived in 2009; however, Hoda’s husband was denied refugee status.  Over the span of three years,the ILS staff petitioned the government on his behalf and he was eventually granted permission to enter the country through immigration.

One Donated Car Enables an Entire Network of Refugees to Gain Independence

Awet arrived as a refugee from Eritrea just one day before his roommate Michael. With the help of WRDA job placement classes, both men were able to secure a job.  Having to rely on others for transportation, Awet and Michael studied English together and worked towards getting a driver’s license permit.  Awet, who worked as a mechanic in Eritrea, was the first to pass his driving test and, through the WRDA car donation program, received a car.   Today, Awet is able to help others in the refugee community.  In addition to driving the carpool to work, which includes his roommate, he is able to take other refugee clients to appointments and shopping. In the future, he hopes to start a career as a truck driver.


English, the Key to Success

Chronically unemployed due to Mexico’s fragile economy, Tilia Acevedo decided to leave behind her home  country and join her siblings in the U.S.  Knowing very little English, Tilia struggled to adjust, but with the support of her family, she was able to get a job and begin a new life.  Tilia’s new life also included a husband, which prompted her to move to the Chicago area.

Desiring a better job, Tilia knew that increasing her English skills would be the key—that’s when she discovered ESL classes at World Relief DuPage /Aurora. Although learning a new language has been difficult for her, from the first day of class Tilia found her teachers to be both patient and kind.  Furthermore, her two sons have the opportunity to learn English too.  While she is in class, they are being cared for through WRDA’s Early Childhood Program

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