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.
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.
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