Our Administrative Assistant is starting a new chapter in her life. In this post, Breana recalls what it has been like working with Women of the World.
[et_pb_section admin_label="section"][et_pb_row admin_label="row"][et_pb_column type="4_4"][et_pb_text admin_label="Text" background_layout="light" text_orientation="left" use_border_color="off" border_color="#ffffff" border_style="solid"]The images that flash across my computer today are all too familiar. Men, women, and children, their fear-drawn faces smeared with dirt and sunken with exhaustion, fleeing. Unimaginable horror and destruction everywhere. No time to think, no real path to safety. Bombs, soldiers, cheering …. from where? Who could be cheering this nightmare? Cold-blooded executions of civilians, Facebook and Twitter farewells, a once-beautiful city reduced to rubble.Aleppo, Syria, today. Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 1992.Yet when I walked into the Islamic Society of Bosniaks open house last Saturday, the ethereal voices of the Bulbuli Children’s Choir greeted me, and fresh-faced young women at the door welcomed me to the mosque. Older women sat along the periphery recording the ceremony on their phones or iPads, while young people, perhaps bored by the proceedings, scrolled through Facebook feeds on their own phones. Speeches, welcomes, statements by representatives of a multitude of faiths…. Muslim, Catholic, LDS…. celebrated the new Maryam mosque, named for the mother of Jesus.Afterwards, a feast downstairs with traditional Bosnian fare: cevapi, zeljanica, ajvar, baklava, strong Bosnian coffee in small, ornate cups. Multiple generations sitting around tables. How many of the Bosnians in the room endured the same atrocities as the families in Aleppo? I learned that the president of the Islamic Society of Bosniaks arrived here as a refugee in 1996. What is his story? What are the stories of the people seated around me? How many here lost family members, or lived in a refugee camp before arriving in Salt Lake?Those questions about the past receded when I heard the women's joyous laughter, saw the smiling faces of children digging into gooey sweets, savored the tastes and smells of home-cooked food, and admired the beauty and simplicity of the remodeled Baptist church that now serves as the Bosniak community's spiritual home. Everywhere I turned, I was welcomed by women serving food, asking if I need anything, thanking me for coming. All the while exuding confidence and hope.I remember wondering during the Balkan War why nobody stepped in to prevent the slaughter in Srebenica. I read Samantha Power’s powerful book on genocide, “A Problem from Hell,” and thought, well, we know better now. But Darfur, Syria, they show how we still turn away. Today, I heard Power, now U.N. Ambassador for the U.S., chastise member countries of the U.N. Security Council, saying “Aleppo will join the ranks of those events that define modern evil, that stain our conscience decades later. Halabja, Rwanda, Srebenica, and now, Aleppo.”Whether it’s euphemistically called “ethnic cleansing” or, more accurately, “genocide,” these conflicts, and others around the world, have displaced over 65 million people according to a 2015 report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The United States admits around 85,000 refugees annually. And approximately 1,100 of those make their way to Utah each year.So what can you and I do, really? Write a check to a rescue group, talk with friends about the atrocities, contemplate the horrors in the quiet of our hearts?We CAN do something. We can volunteer to teach English, demonstrate how to use public transit, help with job applications. Be a friend, a source of emotional support, for those far from home making their way in a strange land.Most especially, we can do something to support refugee women, because they are the heart and soul of their families. They are strong, dedicated, resilient, caring, self-sufficient, powerful. They are builders and doers. Empowering women, according to Women of the World, is the fastest way to enable financially sustainable refugee communities.So I chose to be a doer, too, by volunteering for Women of the World. I want to make a difference, one woman, one friend at a time. It’s a small thing, but maybe the accumulation of these many small things will be enough to give a refugee woman in Salt Lake hope that one day she too will laugh, smile, and share food with others in her community like the Bosniak women did on Saturday.Because we all need hope.Christine Osborne is a volunteer for Women of the World.[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][/et_pb_section]
“I want to kill myself. I don’t want to live anymore."
What horrors did this young mother from Congo experience for her to utter these words in front of her young children?
Mami is a late afternoon walk-in to Women of the World. She has cried through the day, her dark complexion stained with sadness. She is thin, her past sickens her. She is striking. Her kids are adorable, quiet, and well-behaved. They place their heads gently on the new blanket I give them from our donation closet.
If you cannot be compassionate with Mami, you aren’t capable of compassion.
Mami's friend, Pam, brought her to Women of the World. Pam has donated all of her time today. At dawn, Pam happened past the office. It is fortunate she did... more than fortunate, Women of the World is on an industrial street, we don’t get foot traffic. It was grace.
“Mami, I know you have suffered…"
Mami cut off Samira, the WoW Director. “You don’t know my story, no one knows."
“Mami, it is true. I don’t know. And you don’t know mine. Everyone has pain and feels their own hurt is more than what anyone has."
Mami is not her name. It is a term of endearment that WoW service staff have picked up to call central-African women. Iraqis use momma. It’s like a Southerner woman's “hun” to another woman. The respect and love of cooing “Mami” began to settle her down.
“I want to get you some help. Give you the opportunity to see a counselor."
Mami was violently raped in Congo. The beautiful kids with her are not her husband’s, they are the children of soldiers sent to rape and pillage. Refugees did not come to Utah for the American dream, they are fleeing a nightmare. Modern war is hell on earth, the most psychologically damaging sequence of events you can imagine, times thousands. You can’t imagine it, it is more horrific than your psyche will allow you to conjure.
"I don't want to go back to my resettlement agency. Not them. They don't help."
Refugees did not come to Utah for the American dream, they are fleeing a nightmare.
We get this from time to time. The resettlement agencies serve a lot more people, but they can't always spend the time needed to listen, empathize, and rebuild trust. Women of the World is different. We offer custom solutions, a boutique for cases more dynamic and difficult than the majority of refugee cases.
Women of the World offers a sisterhood.
"No I will get you someone to talk to at UHHR. They can help you. They will listen and give you advice to find a way to not be sad all the time."
The Utah Health and Human Rights organization is trained in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) treatment and only serve refugees. Women of the World partners with them often.
"Can you trust me to help you?"
"Yes, I can. You are my sister."
"Yes. You can always find your sisters here. Abby, Maya, and I and any of our volunteers we have help you are your sisters."
"I never have had family here..."
"Now you do, Mami. Now you do."
This morning, the Salt Lake City Public radio station KRCL aired a brief interview with Women of the World Founder and Executive Director, Samira Harnish, on the "Return on Investment" that support for the refugee women population can have on the community.The women refugees that make up part of our new neighbor populations here in America have overcome great adversity to start at the bottom in our system, but Women of the World believes that like many immigrants before them, these refugee women will integrate and become self-reliant.As you know from reading this newsletter, Women of the World differentiates itself in the landscape of refugee service by focusing on women still facing issues after their resettlement benefits have expired. Women of the World builds self-reliance by customizing service to the specific need, working alongside "our ladies" to solve the issue together, and building capacity in English, employment skills, and education.Samira Harnish says, "It can be hard, challenging to overcome a past of violence and oppression, a struggle against poverty in a new home where the rules and language are unfamiliar, but our ladies love it here because they have a chance to keep their kids safe and through hard work, succeed."That is the Return on Investment that Women of the World guarantees the communities it works in.http://www.krcl.org/the-roi-women-of-the-world/
The celebration of those that brought us into the world and that nurture and care for us throughout our lives is a key rite preserved in most cultures. In America, this rite is celebrated on the most important holiday of all – Mother’s Day. Many of our new neighbors taking refuge in Utah have a streak of celebrating mothers and grandmothers, even promoting them to the head of the household, but these celebrations do not fall on a specific day. As WoW has constantly said, we do not ask our ladies to balance two cultures, but to blend them, the best of both… in light of this, we celebrated our 6th Annual Mother’s Day Celebration at the Bud Bailey Housing Complex on Saturday.The event was well-attended even though rain washed out the initial outdoor venue. Our friends at the Bud Bailey Housing Complex stepped up and opened a space for our use – a real treat for our ladies from all over Salt Lake City to come in from the rain and celebrate together with food and friends.The Mother’s Day event is an opportunity for supporters, volunteers, and other community members to share a meal with our new neighbors and talk about the delicious ethnic potluck food and share in the common loving role they all share as mothers. Kids and mothers mix between the different ethnicities to share in overcoming their common struggles.This year, Women of the World recognized its first Mother of the Year. Known simply as Bebe, which is Congolese for grandmother, Bebe was nominated both by the granddaughter she serves as the caregiver for and by WoW staff for her kindness and her calm in the face of the struggles she continues to overcome. Later that same night, at the Mama Africa Kitoko Fashion Show, Women of the World Founder and Executive Director, Samira Harnish, presented Bebe with an award from the Mama Africa Kontago non-profit as well. Samira also recognized two other women for their contributions in the service of refugees and for their entrepreneurial vision.Women of the World is continuing to survey the mothers for the classes they want to help themselves and their kids achieve their next step in the community and if you are interested in supporting a legal/human rights or economic empowerment class ranking for these women, pleasesend us an email.Women of the World loves to celebrate with its members and there is no greater focus on the courage and care, the kindness and resolve of our ladies than the celebration around their sacrifice for their children. Thank you to all of the refugee mothers that make our lives so much more complete.
Women of the World's 3rd Annual Refugee Fashion show was a resounding success!!!Women from all over the world modeled in this celebration of the beauty and courage of our new neighbors. Burundi, Congolese, Burmese, Iranian, Iraqi, Nepalese, Ethiopian, Rwandan, Sudanese, and Afghani women graced the stage at Pierpont Place on Thursday evening in to show their native country's fashions. A sample of the photos that were taken are on Women of the World's Flickr page on the album 3rd Annual Refugee Fashion ShowA sampling of some of the fashions on display include:
Burundi beautiful, smart, kind Sandrine wearing Burundi traditional dress “Imvutano.” She would typically dress up in Imvutano for weddings and church. This type of clothes basically symbolize the respect and dignity of a Burundian lady.The top of this ensemble is sari-like, with the fabric draping over one shoulder, across the bodice and leaving the other shoulder bare.
Another example, from Burma:
Smart, vibrant Mary Nei Mawi and Dawt Dawt, are from Chin State in Burma. They are wearing beautiful Chin Traditional clothing. They mainly wear this type of dress on special occasions such as Chin National Day, Christmas, New Year’s, and wedding ceremonies.
All of the photos of this event on Flickr represent an important milestone in the journey of our refugee women neighbors and friends. As Founder and President Samira Harnish states to introduce our models...
As you applaud each of them as they walk the catwalk, think about the steps they took before the ones you are seeing – running away from violence and oppression, scared and hoping only for a safe night’s sleep. Think about what they left behind -- a comfortable job, house, and their families – sometimes even their own sons and daughters.Their beauty comes not only from their features or clothing; but from their strength and amazing courage to find a better life here in Utah.
Women of the World is indebted to all of the volunteers, supporters, directors (and directors' spouses) that helped to make the 3rd Annual Refugee Fashion Show such a tremendous success. Women of the World would especially like to thank the primary sponsors for the Fashion Show.
Thank you to the 2015 Fashion Show Sponsors
Please consider keeping the momentum of the 3rd Annual Fashion Show alive by giving a generous gift via our secured donation site.
The 2015 Momentum Continues
Women of the World's media momentum continues into 2015 with Nkoyo Iyamba's piece on KSL entitled "Follow Your Passion" in which she highlights Utah citizens that have left careers to pursue something they are passionate about. Nkoyo led off this series with Women of the World's Founder and President Samira Harnish's story which involves the choice of following her passion to serve and enable women refugees to a level of success like she enjoyed but retired from in her engineering career. Samira has been successful in academia, in the high-tech industry as a Research & Development engineer, and now as the focal point for the support of refugee women and their families in Utah.The story got picked up by both KSL's website under the title of "Woman helps refugees thrive in Utah" and by Deseret News under the title "Follow your passion: Utahns change careers in pursuit of happiness." Indeed while it has been difficult to serve with few resources and in a learning as you go mode, Samira has "never been happier or more fulfilled in her life." The new neighbors that Women of the World supports, according to Samira, "are the real heroes and I appreciate every opportunity to highlight their amazing stories of perseverance and courage."Women of the World is thrilled by the ongoing reporting that Nkoyo Iyamba is focusing on refugee women in Utah and the service women and men that Women of the World is employing to help them achieve their self-reliance. Nkoyo's commitment to the advancement of all of Utah's diverse community is a service to journalism and to the small nonprofits, like Women of the World, that count on the spotlight that she can shine on our heartfelt activities.
Women of the World has been spreading the word about how amazing Utah has been in support of refugee women's self-reliance -- see the below spot on Comcast Newsmakers that went international on CNN Headline News.More support is always needed. Women of the World knows that your holiday dollars are stretched thin, but for just $20 you can ensure that a refugee family can celebrate in the holiday season along with its community. For just the price of a night at the movies, you can help a refugee mother give the warmth of the season to her family. Just by knowing that her community is there for her -- her self-reliance is bolstered.Consider using Giving Tuesday in support of refugee self-reliance.Below is a more detailed account of what is possible when Women of the World is utilized to support women refugees no longer supported by intake agencies and who want to excel.
It was 11pm when I received a call from one of the ladies from the Congo. She was crying but conveyed with her broken English mixed with French that she had lost her wallet on the bus. She was so frustrated because her green card and her ID was in it. I had to calm her down, told her that tomorrow morning I would go and apply for new green card and ID.This woman is a survivor of war, oppression, poverty and rape, she is a single mother of three and a grandmother, all of whom depend on her for support. Her mother is paralyzed and she also needs a lot of help.The government supports her with food stamps but she only receives cash assistance if she works for 8 hours a day. She leaves her house from 7am-7pm to babysit for another family from Africa. Of course no one takes care of her mother when she is gone to work. As a result of losing her green card, she lost her opportunity to get a handicap accessible apartment (she was living in a basement with many stairs and she has to carry her mother upstairs to take her to doctor appointments).I got her a green card without her paying $460 fine, and I looked for legal places that can pay her to take care of her mother until I found one in an unknown program at Salt Lake County.Now she and her family are very happy and self-reliant because she is taking care of her mother, moved to accessible apartment, got her drivers license, and is learning English. She is graduating WoW this December!
The Human Rights Education Project of the Salt Lake City Community Empowerment group collaborated with the Women Of the World Organization to present a workshop about Sexual Violence Prevention last Saturday.
There were 35 people in attendance at the workshop & five different nationalities (Iraq, Jordan, Nepal, Karenni & Karen). We had 4 interpreters help to get the information to the ladies and men. The subjects was very interesting, educational, and helpful to them. They were all involved with reading the stories and discussing the problems, how to prevent them, and what they would do if they had the problem in their house. The audience was very lively and involved with the material. When I gave a ride to the ladies, they were talking about it in the car & thanking me for giving them the opportunity to be involved in this subject.
I appreciate the Mayor's Office for giving us the opportunity to do this workshop. Thank you very much for Alana Kindness & Stephany Murguia for giving the lecture, it was very valuable and the material was very understandable. Thank you to Amy Wylie for donating the hygiene products to the audience. Thank you very much for the interpreters, for without them, the material would never be understood.
Interview with Women of the World Executive Director, Samira Harnish, on what you can do to volunteer and help Women of the World.
Theme is strength
- While women are known for their beauty, Women of the World is known for its STRENGTH
- Let me give a couple of stories of Women of the World’s strength
- Fought for woman and her family to raise the health of her home, took care of the mold that surrounded her, even though the landlord said they caused it and their culture lives this way.
- Fought for a women whose parents received their green cards but she did not. Immigration Services did not believe her story but through the fight of WoW, Immigration found their mistake and the woman got her green card.
Call to Action
- You have all gotten stronger and I applaud you.
- Women of the World has also grown, even though it has been a tough year for us to achieve our mission, most of you have achieved what you started out to do this year.
- Remember, we are stronger together than we are apart. If you are struggling, Women of the World will be there for you; but if another woman is struggling, will you be there for her? Can I hear you say: yes I will help other women!
- Please listen to those women around you, from a different country or the same, and learn what you can share, how you can help.
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Governor Herbert:In the refugee camps, where you struggle to keep the mud and cold out of your tent and are forced to fight for food, poor dental health is a foregone conclusion. A few of your constituents, individuals who have spent fifteen years or more in camps, now need your help.Let me introduce you to D-, a Bhutanese refugee, one of the forgotten people. Forced from her home because she is an ethnic minority, Lhotshampas, she managed to keep her family together and after extreme turmoil, was granted refuge in Utah one year ago. When my wife and I, with our nonprofit Women of the World, went to their home, she and her husband are extremely malnourished since the basic act of eating over rotten teeth is painful. Women of the World in collaboration with Fortis College donated free hygiene and checkups for D-'s family but students and instructors could do little for her pain or extreme problems. D- and many like her need Medicaid dental services reinstated to enjoy and contribute in Utah.Let me tell a different story, a story of the future of D-'s grandson, who because of his drive, the desire to escape poverty, and the gift of American education and the entrepreneurial spirit, he becomes the next Sergey Brin, the co-founder of Google. As a semiconductor engineering manager at IMFT, I can assure you that our greatest headway towards making Utah's Wasatch Valley the new Silicon Valley rests with young refugees like D-'s grandson. He'll contribute where he feels most wanted, I urge you to make that place Utah.Please, follow the #1 recommendation from the Medicaid Medical Care Advisory Committee forwarded to you by the Department of Health to…RESTORE DENTAL SERVICES FOR ADULTS ENROLLED IN MEDICAID!Samira and Justin HarnishExecutive and Development Director for Women of the World
This year the celebration of Eid al-Fitr, the celebration after the month-long Ramadan fast, was supplemented by Women of the World's gifts, donations, and community roundtable forum with the Refugee Service Office. The celebration occurred at the Sugarhouse Park and was very well attended.Traditionally, gifts are given to children for Eid and Women of the World donated toys for both boys and girls and was able to find enough women to donate their lightly used jewelry to give a new necklace or bracelet to each girl. Clothing and food was donated by Women of the World and dancing and Arabic music was enjoyed by all.The Town Hall style meeting had a lot of good information on housing and social service benefits and we would like to thank Gerald Brown for so patiently listening to the concerns of the members of Women of the World following up on their concerns.
It was hard to get everyone's attention but the wonderful volunteers didn't stop until they get help to the family. Despite our focus to empower women in education andemployment, there is still a great deal of need in critical service that we are meeting at Women of the World.
Women of the World would like to thank the beautiful community member Joyce for her donation of household goods to refugee families. While Joyce is moving to the southeast, her donations will remaining in Utah and are much appreciated.Thank you Joyce!
Women of the World completed a busy month of events with this Friday's Navigating the Public Transportation System, a workshop created in President Samira Harnish's Westside Leadership Institute class project. The goal of the class was to develop an event that touched on a key obstacle to community building in a community in need. As Samira has been focused on refugee women's needs, she was quick to offer her community for information on what she has been told is a key obstacle to their development -- transportation.While the Salt Lake City area has an expansive and easy to access public transportation system, there are not many resources on usage for new refugees that may not understand English or metropolitan transportation systems. Women of the World and the WLI group developed a brief workshop alongside UTA representatives to clarify the routes, pricing, and access to public transportation for the refugee community.
Today, Women of the World, in collaboration with Brigham Young University, sponsored a nutrition workshop for women from the Middle East. While the Mediterranean diet has become a successful diet low in fat in the western world, refugees from the region do not always have the ingredients in their transplant communities to accurately represent the native delicacies. This workshop surveyed the women for their nutritional habits in Utah and contrasted them to the habits they had in their native countries.The Nutrition Workshop also highlighted the Mediterranean diet by serving a full meal, prepared by WoW President and Founder Samira Harnish, of traditional Iraqi fare. The women at the workshop enjoyed the dinner and the information and requested a repeat for the community -- the ability to get together with their friends and talk about food, friends, and family. Further information from the survey and the project conducted by BYU will be made available as soon as Women of the World is granted access.
On April 1, Women of the World in collaboration with the Salt Lake Community Action Program, put on a community workshop that detailed renters housing rights. Jennie Perez dedicated her time and presented material from the Utah Renters Handbook to a group of over forty participants. Questions ranged from the proper way to dispute claims to landlord bias and discrimination.Each member of the WoW community was invited to a post-workshop banquet prepared by Women of the World founder Samira Harnish and to help themselves to donations of clothing and toys. Women of the World distributed gifts of towels, sundries, and shopping bags donated by WoW and the LDS Humanitarian Center.WoW would like to thank Jennie Perez, the Salt Lake Community Action Program, and the LDS Humanitarian Center for their generous support of this program and to the Horizonte School for its continued housing of these special educational events.
The Women of the World was proud to sponsor the translation and to help with the organization of the first Multicultural Breast Cancer Awareness workshop. Breast cancer is a key concern with the refugee communities since early detection and reporting is less prevalent in cultures where women do not discuss breast health in any company, but especially where jargon or gender roles make women feel extremely uncomfortable. The Multicultural Breast Cancer Awareness Seminar aims to eliminate technical jargon while furthering Breast Cancer Awareness in our community members' native languages. The Women of the World supported translation in Arabic while other communities added Swahili, Karen, Somali and Nepali.Overall, this workshop shows the key role that Women of the World plays in blending the cultural conservatism of refugee women with their need for information critical to maintaining the communities health.
This weekend, Women of the World participated in a heartwarming show of charity with Salt Lake and Utah county residents that gave selflessly of themselves by donating their time and money to load up a Uhaul truck and distribute donations of furniture, appliances, and bedding to individuals in need in the community. Tamee Roberts used her contacts throughout the community to gain access to some fine furniture donations that were loaded by volunteers onto a Uhaul truck and then unloaded to WoW members originating from the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.Everyone who participated enjoyed the time immensely. Young children played together at each house and helped to direct bunk beds into their new places in their rooms; women offered food and drink to tired volunteers; and men and women alike lifted donations into and out of the Uhaul truck. The smiles of the receivers were only eclipsed by those who participated in all of the hard work of giving.Thanks to Tamee, Samira, and all who donated their much appreciated furniture and appliances to members of the WoW community!