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Meet Our Fellows

Siham

My husband and I came to America when I was 21 years old, and our family now includes four daughters and three sons, alhamdulillah. In the beginning, my responsibility was to my home and kids. My focus was my children and I committed to raising them the way I grew up in Sudan. Once my kids grew up, I started thinking about finding an education or work. My husband had a job, though, so it was not too urgent. But then my family’s circumstances started changing. 

 

In 2011, my husband lost his job as an assistant manager at a parking lot, without any explanation for why they let him go. He had worked for them for 23 years, since 1990. So things got worse, and I wanted to work to support my 7 kids. I found out about Havenly through a friend, and it gave me hope for a job. I’m not exactly a refugee, so I wasn’t sure if this job would be for me, but I quickly learned it was for any woman who needed support. Insha’allah, I told myself, I can find work at Havenly. And I did. 

 

Working a job out of home made me proud, and it made my daughters proud, too. My oldest daughters chipped in at home when I was at work because they wanted me to succeed. One of them changed her school schedule to take care of the younger children just so I could work. I’m so proud of how much my children have given for me. My first check? I gave it all to my children. The second went to my husband. I was happy to work. And I was happy to support my family. Alhamdulillah, we’ve found a way. 

 

I’ve found a community of Muslims and Sudanese women in New Haven. The Sudanese have a blessed community in West Haven, with Qur’an lessons, Arabic classes, and other activities for our families. I would love to continue working with refugee women in the future, since I feel so comfortable in this job. Havenly is so unique because we can run it the way we want, and I am so happy to have our own special space in the kitchen.

 

There used to be days when I would get out of bed, get my children ready for school, and then return back to bed. Now I wake up at dawn excited for work, and I feel a new kind of energy, and I’m happier for it.

Mutiaa

My two children are the light of my life. We came to America less than three years ago, after spending two years in Turkey, unsure if we would ever make it out. The thing that surprised us when we came here was how much people had to work to live. 

 

The first year was tough, with medical appointments and not being able to speak the language. That year, I had four or five meetings per week with doctors to discuss my family’s health after coming to America. But the second year was a little better. Slowly, we learned how to get by, bit by bit. My husband found a job, but life is still tough for our family, and I became motivated to find work to find stability.

 

Back in Syria, before the war, I had a normal childhood and normal marriage. But all my good memories disappeared following the bombing of our house. I lost a son in that bombing. The pain has never left my family, but I take it day by day, and I remember my children in everything I do. I’m so proud of my children. I’m proud of the life we’ve made here. The important thing is that we had confidence in ourselves despite the past, and alhamdulillah my children have adapted and surpassed the obstacles in front of them. In America, they have reclaimed themselves.

 

My first motivation comes from God. And my children. Whatever I do is for them. From morning to sunset it is my children. 

 

I’ve also made friends who stayed with me throughout my journey in America. There’s Sandy, my liaison through IRIS who supported me greatly in the first year. And Oliver, a tennis coach who continues to stay in touch with us. Even though I didn’t have many encounters with other refugee women in New Haven until Havenly, I was happy to have a community of people around me. And now, with Nieda and the other fellows, I feel I’ve found a family.

Mashair

I grew up in a simple family in Sudan, with eight brothers and four sisters. My family didn’t have much, but I managed to get a little bit of an education. I graduated college with a degree in computer skills, and I worked as a tutor to support my family through some hard times. But this did not make me weaker. It strengthened me. I felt I made them proud. Eventually, I got married and became a mother to four kids. My daughter’s asthma meant we had to travel to Egypt often for treatment, and because of this I could not find a job. We moved to Egypt for her, and even though I sacrificed my job, it was for my children’s safety. Even when we came to America, it was for my children’s sake. And I’m happy to be working now, because it means I can provide for them even more. I’m committed to working, whether it be part-time or full-time. I want to serve my family.

 

My favorite memory? My family, back in Sudan. My father loves me very much. He's an older man now, but he always supported me coming to America. He taught in English in Sudan, and he always wanted his children to find their way to America. So I’m committed for my kid to get an education in America, and I am hopeful for our future here.

 

I’m so comfortable with the community I’ve found in America. When I meet with other people through IRIS, it brings tears to my eyes. I want to help them so much. I work in IRIS as a child care assistant and that work has really helped me find a home. I’m proud to live in America. I want my kids to grow up here and become American, giving back to the community. There’s a saying in Sudan, that if someone honors you, you have to honor them twofold. That is my goal.