Stories of Change

Doha in front of a client's house in Greensboro, N.C.

I Am Because We Are

In 2016, as the war in Syria dominated world headlines, nearly eight million Syrians were internally displaced while hundreds of thousands lived in areas under siege. Millions of Syrian refugees were registered in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt. One of those millions is a Church World Service case manager, Doha, who left Syria in 2013 and arrived in Egypt in the same year. Church World Service helped Doha and her husband resettle into the United States in 2016. Doha remembers the steps she took to adjust into her new life with the support and encouragement of CWS. “My trip started at the English classes, then I started helping people who speak Arabic—with interpretation. Then CWS offered me a position—a case aide, I supported refugees to get driver’s licenses. That was my first job,” she says.

A colleague and I visited Doha as she interacted with her clients–a husband, his wife and their child–during the early days of Ramadan. Doha proudly wore her head scarf and her CWS badge. The client was from Sudan and spoke Arabic. Doha easily communicated because both spoke Arabic, but the paperwork Doha had presented to her client was in English, and she had to carefully read and translate. “Today we are here with the employment specialist because this client has been working for two weeks,” she explained. “After two weeks we must do a post-employment follow up. We explain, we show them their expenses and their income. We compare. We show them that their income exceeds their expenses, that means they are self-sufficient. We say congrats! But they still get our services. Until the end of the Matching Grant program, they are eligible for CWS services for five years, until they can apply for citizenship. I got my citizenship this January! YAY! This is the goal, this is the dream.”

Doha spoke to us outside of her client’s house in a neighborhood full of diversity; we could hear people speak in different languages and even foreign flags flying on the front porches. Doha talked about her life in Egypt after she fled Syria, where she got to meet people predominantly from sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East. It was in Egypt where she started helping other refugees to keep track of their resettlement cases and helped in scheduling appointments while she herself was working with Church World Service as a client in her case to move to the U.S. When she moved here, she did not let anything come between herself and her dreams: becoming a citizen of the United States and helping others reach that dream. Since 2016, Doha has seen many CWS clients start from scratch and become citizens of the United States, earning the right to vote and to participate in this democracy.

“We have a lot of success stories with our clients, we are so proud of them…They start working, they get driving licenses, get a car and start working on their goals, school, certificates, and a lot more. We are always proud,” Doha said while she was talking about some of the success stories.

“Refugees are our treasure,” Doha said. “Come visit a refugee, meet them yourself.” Refugees come with talents, skills and experiences, but sometimes the documentations here become the challenge that stand in their way. Doha and our other colleagues are aware of these challenges, as they have experienced this themselves. Besides working with their clients as case managers, they also become the motivation for their clients to be more involved in their communities and thrive. Meanwhile, as our interview ended in the late hours of the afternoon, Doha–who was fasting for hours–still had the energy and motivation to go visit one last client before she called it a day and headed home to break the fast with her husband.

This story was written by Abdi Iftin, CWS Communications Specialist for Welcoming Communities.