Read Their Stories

Sandra – Colombia

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My name is Sandra. My husband and I and our 2-year-old son did not come to Canada by choice. I am a journalist and journalism is a risky occupation in Colombia. A paramilitary organization made serious threats against my life because of my reporting on stories of corruption, organized crime and human rights violations. We managed to escape and came to Canada seeking safety and protection.

The first several months were a huge challenge for us. We could not have done it without the support of the people we met at the refugee shelter where we stayed when we first arrived in Canada.

We thank God that we had a successful refugee hearing and are grateful that we can stay in Canada. Canada is a peaceful country and we feel safe here. We have made many new friends that have become like family to us. We are studying English and our language skills are rapidly improving. We are eager to find work and to contribute to our new home. We have hope again!


Jean – Central African Republic (CAR)

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My name is Jean and I am from Central African Republic (CAR). I came to Canada hoping to find a safe place to live. My involvement in politics put me at great risk in my country. I was tortured and imprisoned for speaking out against the government. When I got out of prison I left in such a hurry that I was not able to bring all my identity documents with me. Now the conditions back home are even worse as my country is being torn apart by civil war. My wife and my two daughters fled the violence in CAR and are living as refugees in neighbouring Cameroon. I don’t know where my sons are – I just pray they are still alive somewhere.

I made a refugee claim in Canada and was given a hearing date 60 days later. Canada did not accept my refugee claim. At my hearing they said that I did not have enough documents or evidence to verify what happened to me. I was devastated. They said that I have to return to my country. How can I return to a country that is in midst of a brutal civil war? My house is gone. My family is gone. How can I return?

Fortunately with the support of my church community and with the assistance of wise legal counsel, my deportation has been temporarily postponed. However, my safe future in Canada is not guaranteed.


Sahar - Iraq

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My name is Sahar. My husband and I arrived in America in late June. We had been living in Jordan for some time, after having fled from Iraq when my husband’s barber shop was blown up by those who didn’t like the western style haircuts he gave.

We have 2 year old twins who are full of spunk, but a little confused, I think, at all the recent changes. My husband’s greatest wish is to open his own barber shop in the states. It has been so disappointing to find out that his barber training isn’t recognized here and he will have to start all over, going to school and taking a test. I don’t know how he can get the 1500 hours he needs in barber school when he also has to find a job to support our family.

I wish I could help by working, but I must care for our children and I speak almost no English anyway. I’m not even sure how I will take English classes. I am so grateful for the volunteers from a church group who have been helping us! They met us at the airport when we arrived, showed us where to get free diapers, helped enroll us in English classes, and we especially love when they make visits in our home and all of our kids play together.


Khadija - Somalia

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My name is Khadija and I am a ten year old girl. My family is from Somalia but it was dangerous there so they ran away a long time ago. I was born in Kenya in a refugee camp several years later.

I have lots of brothers and sisters, most of whom were also born in the camp. We lived in a “tent city” there where there was no electricity or running water in our homes.

We arrived in America three years ago after going through a long process to be approved as refugees. Last year my dad was killed in a car wreck near Tucson. My mom works very hard to keep the family going.

We have an American Christian friend who comes to visit us and take us places to have fun. We really like going to his house and meeting his other American friends. I was always told not to go into a church because we are Muslim, but when we go visit those friends I imagine that maybe that’s what church is like and it makes me want to know more.


Babushka - Republic of Georgia

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Most people call me “babushka” which means grandma where I came from. I grew up in the Republic of Georgia, but when I was young all of us Meskhetian Turks were chased out of the country. We traveled in train cars, and every day they would open the doors and throw out the dead bodies.

My family resettled in Krasnadar, Russia but we were never given rights as citizens. The Russians didn’t like us, my father was not allowed to work and we were often mistreated.

I grew up and got married and had 4 kids in that cold country. Several years after my husband passed away we had an opportunity to apply for refugee status. In May of 2005 we arrived in America– my 2 sons and their families and myself. I had to say goodbye to my other children and I don’t know when I will see them again.

I don’t understand or speak any English. I do not understand this culture in the least. I don’t even understand my own grandchildren who have learned the American ways. I guess it doesn’t matter anyway. They’re not very interested in me because I’m too old and there is nothing pretty about me anymore. I don’t leave the walls of our apartment and the only company I have is my daughter-in-law who takes care of my needs.

I have 98 years of memories stored up in my heart and now nobody wants to hear them. I have acquired years of wisdom and still I understand nothing.


Fatima - Iraq

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My name is Fatima and I am from Iraq. My husband worked as a translator for the American military in our homeland, putting his life at risk. He began to receive threats on his life if he didn’t stop working for the Americans, and one day after he was nearly killed we decided we needed to get out of the country. He left that same night and fled to Turkey.

Exactly two weeks later I took the children and we escaped to Syria, as it was not possible to get to Turkey at that time. In Syria we applied for refugee status– lots of paperwork, interviews, medical checks, background checks, security checks and more. Finally were were approved for refugee status and we learned we would be moving to Tucson, AZ.

My oldest son went to the internet cafe and looked up the city on the internet and we learned that Tucson is “sahara” (desert) just like our homeland and that made us more excited to go and start our new lives there, hoping that my husband would soon join us there as well.

We landed in Tucson International Airport and were greeted by our case manager and escorted to our apartment that had been furnished by donations to their agency. We stayed in our apartment and never ventured out except when our case manager came to get us for appointments.

We were excited to finally meet some Americans when we began attending an English class at a church nearby about 5 months after our arrival. We were not lonely any more after that! I am so thankful for the friends we met there and the love they showed us. I didn’t know at the time, but they would be the only family I knew until I was finally reunited with my husband three years later.