December 30, 2019 — Samia fled the Syrian town of Daraa having witnessed the horrors of war. Resettlement to the U.S. helped her to start anew. Read her story to see how resettlement gives people fleeing conflict and disaster a chance to rebuild their lives.
Samia does not want to remember the first two years of the Syrian conflict, as the memories are still too painful. ‘When the war started in Daraa, the situation was very bad. We lived in the middle of a warzone and then one day my neighbour almost died because of a bomb. That was the moment I knew I needed to get in a car and run away to Jordan. Some of my family were separated, my tears came all the time.’
Samia fled to Jordan with her seven children where they initially stayed in a refugee camp. Once granted a legal status, she was able to start working and make some money from cooking and cleaning. In 2016, the family was chosen for resettlement in the U.S. Samia said: ‘I felt that my family and I were safe. After years of war, this was my only concern.’
But despite the immense relief of finding a safe haven, refugees still face a number of barriers when resettled to a new home. For Samia, ‘Language was the biggest challenge. I did not even know the English alphabet before coming to the United States. And although I understand more and more, I find it hard to speak in English.’
The IRC supported Samia throughout the resettlement process. Her family was provided with accommodation, financial support for the rent and bills, as well as cultural orientation classes. ‘This helped me to understand cultural differences but also practical things like how to go shopping, or use public transportation,’ Samia recalls.
The IRC also helped to enroll Samia’s children in a local school. She laughs that now it’s them who can teach her new things: ‘I try to learn through their studies, even though they learn things so quickly!’
Through a micro-enterprise programme, the IRC assisted Samia in her journey to becoming an entrepreneur. ‘Work was my first priority. I’ve worked since I was very young. I also know how much it can help me learn the language. The IRC helped me write a business plan, gave me a tent and table to use at the food market, and a small grant to help grow my business.’
While she admits it took her a while to adjust to her new life, Samia and her family always felt welcomed: ‘People here are so friendly, I was never made to feel like I was different from others. They helped us when we arrived, explaining maps, the alphabet and the language.’
She recognises the importance of the resettlement process for refugees and the opportunity it gives for starting anew, despite all the challenges faced along the way.
‘I feel as though I have all the support I need. Although I miss my home, the war means that it is still too dangerous to return. How can my children live there and have a normal life? I feel safe here and I don’t have that feeling back at home. I’m proud to be an example for my country’s people and for my children.’
Samia does not stop dreaming – and hopes to give something back to the community that has received her with open arms. ‘I have a project of a portable restaurant, a food truck. I want to go around and make people feel happy when they try my food.’
The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and 29 U.S. cities helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue-uk.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.