Read Their Stories
Genuine strength. Chantal is an incredibly strong single mother of two beautiful daughters. Even through the most difficult of times, her positive attitude prevails. She always acts according to her morals and is never looking for the easy way out. As her great smile indicates, she is also always up for a good laugh. She is incredibly hardworking and therefore has created a great life for her daughters and herself. She knows the value of education and hopes to go back to school for nursing.
I came from Burkina Faso as international student at SLCC in 2012 and applied for asylum which was
granted in 2018. I met Samira and Women of the World when I was applying for asylum and she fought for me like she was my own mother. My long term goal is to go back to my country. I think they need me more there than they do here. Because it’s a developing country, and Africa is calling her children home. I hope to have an organization like WoW back home, focused on helping the kids on the streets. You don’t need a diploma to help, to love, to be a human being. That’s also why I write. I’m publishing a book about traditions in West Africa, about female genital mutilation and forced marriage, all of what can happen to a young girl at home. I want people to read it and understand that
we need to stop the pain, we need to do better to
"My life has been up and down a lot of the time, but I am battling. I lived for one year in Egypt and I worked really hard, I worked two jobs. If you have something in your heart as a woman, you do it. I opened the key to leaving the home, I went outside and worked. My daughters and ex-husband watched the baby, I made the money and gave it to him. In time I bore my son Nassir. It was then that I got the call for my interview to come to the United States, and I completed the interview with my two-day-old son in my arms. ‘Not everyone in my family liked that I left the home to make the money. Whoever doesn’t like what I'm doing, I still need to do it for my kids and my mom. I do what I want, what my heart tells me, I find it in me. I would only sleep for four hours a night. I focus on where I am going, on seeing something good. A lot of people would say things to me, but if you need to do something you close your ears to the bad and open only for the good. I came to Utah, to America, alone with five kids. I cleaned and worked in daycare for 4 years, I loved doing that because I was with the babies most of the time and I could work with my hands, I could see the result of my work in front of me. My hope, now that my kids are in school, is to work in the daycare.
Three thousand miles. That’s how far Josephine walked through the jungle to escape the bloody civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo to reach South Africa. Three months in the jungle. By herself. No shoes, no clothes besides the ones on her back, no food. Sleeping on the ground. Jungle animals she could hear but not see, their calls echoing in the darkness. Before she left, Josephine lived in a village cut off by war. “Fighting everywhere,” she explains. “People die, people die, people die,” she repeats to herself as she stares into the distance. Armed militias would arrive in villages, attacking rival groups and civilians alike. She was determined to make a better life for herself and her daughter Julie. On June 21, 2009, Josephine and her then-fifteen-year-old daughter arrived in Utah.
“Before I come here, I cry every day,” she murmurs. “Then I come here, and they give me a key, they open the door and say, here, this is your house! Here is food for you.” She shakes her head in disbelief and laughs again. “I could not believe it!”
The first thing you notice about Kaltum is her quiet presence and lilting voice. When she turns to talk to you, her smile widens slowly, then gradually spreads to light up her whole face. A refugee from Sudan, Kaltum has experienced years of war, suffering, and displacement. She and her family traveled from one refugee camp to another, one country to another, until they made their way to Utah in 2013. She loves cooking and dreamed of owning her own catering business. With Women of the World’s help she was able to start her own food truck! Now the entire community can sample her wonderful food. Women of the World was instrumental in helping me to develop the business skills to be able to open a grocery store and kitchen in South Salt Lake where I plan to supply my Sudanese food and crafts from this storefront. I believe I can be a success and utilize this opportunity to make Salt Lake City is so much better.
I’ll tell you my story. When I was 11 years old in Pakistan, I gotengaged. It was 9 years before we were married, because hewas in America, and it took a long time before I could joinhim. When I finally got to America and his family picked meup at the airport, he was with someone else. I had mydaughter Mukhadis in America when I was 21, and I was asingle mother. I got a job and supported myself and mydaughter. I work hard because I am supporting my family inAfghanistan, but my daughter needs more. I do whatever Ican for her.I want to go to school and study finance again, that’s what Ilove. I was a finance manager in Afghanistan for a non-profitthat helped women. That was my dream, when I was little andI was so fast in school. The teachers loved me, I liked to studymath and I was good at it.I’ve seen a lot of bad things. Right now I am very happy. I’mworking too hard, but I’m happy, I don’t have any problems. Ihave a lot of talents. WoW has helped me a lot for the lastyear, I know them here. I needed some help and I still do.Whatever happens in my life, I still stand and try
Elisabeth was born in Central African Republic. She arrived in Salt Lake City with her three children and her paralyzed mother escaping war, oppression, and poverty. She came here in search of a better and more fulfilling life for her children, only to be led into what seemed like another vicious cycle of oppression. Without knowing her legal rights as a woman, English, and the local laws, this better life that she had risked everything for seemed to be failing her. Through courage, determination, and the support Women of the World was able to provide for her, Elisabeth did not give up. She now has an apartment full of happy children, practices English multiple times a week, and studies enthusiastically for the United States citizenship test. Her strong, compassionate personality and beautiful smile never fade. She is caring, humble, and always ready for a good laugh. Through continued hardships and tragic news, she keeps on learning, studying, and making the best of each situation.
Francine’s upbeat and thoughtful spirit is contagious. What I admire most about Francine is her genuine appreciation for her new friends and family here in Utah. From the moment I met Francine in Women of the World’s office, we became family – looking out for one another every step of the way. Though her life experiences have been anything but easy, she embraces each obstacle with pride and determination. She is hardworking, an independent single mother, and beautiful inside and out. If you ever have the pleasure of meeting Francine, get ready to receive the biggest hug you can imagine. She is truly inspirational, and I know she will continue to do great things for herself and her family as she navigates her new home in Utah with open arms and an open mind.
I came from India to Utah in 2017. I have made Utah my home and I love it. As a child, I grew up in a beautiful place, full of nature, so I am happy to be here surrounded by such beauty. The people are so nice here, they ask how you are with no bias about your looks, religion, background, or age. I go to work, I contribute, and I can live peacefully, happily. There’s so much opportunity here, for anyone. My husband is here working and fighting for asylum, and we have two boys. I came to Women of the World to find a job, and the WoW staff was so supportive and so nice. I spent so much time at the office, coming every day, working to figure out how to get a job and give back to the community. WoW helped send out my CV and now I work with Salt Lake Medical Regional Center. I really want to be a nursing assistant or CNA, to keep improving and working toward higher goals. I want to be useful and supportive of people who need help. I have received so many opportunities here, I want to live respectfully and give back.
Mu Say was born in Burma but spent 18 years at a refugee camp in Thailand, where her son was born. She arrived in Utah on a snow day in March. “It was so cold and so much snow! In my country there is no snow.” She explained that it was difficult for her when she first arrived in Salt Lake City. Her family was the only Karen Burmese in town and she didn’t speak any English. In fact, she was also illiterate in her native language. She remembers one day being asked to write her name. “I didn’t even know how to write my own name!” she told me in a good-humored tone. Mu Say is incredibly successful and very humble. She became a US citizen and proudly goes to school every single day to practice her English and other studies. She is respectful, has many friends, and a great community here now in Salt Lake. When asked about her about her community she smiled and replied, “Oh yeah. I have a big community!”
I came to Salt Lake City as a refugee from North Sudan. I feel at home in Utah because people here work so hard to achieve their dreams and goals, no matter the weather. They remind me of my people. It is my goal to go to school and become a nurse. I lost my mother at a very young age after a nurse gave her the wrong medication for an incorrect diagnosis. I am currently working as support staff at a group home, caring for sick individuals. I give them all a kind smile and good attitude, to make sure their experience is better than my mother’s. That painful part of my life motivates me to become a successful nurse so that I can help people who cannot help themselves.
Within just a few minutes of meeting Apiel, I knew that she was an incredibly intelligent woman. Although English is her second language, she articulates her opinions and thoughts with detail and proficiency. Her self-motivation is not only to have success for her and her family, however, but also to help the many women around her that she considers to be her sisters. Despite the many struggles she was facing when she first arrived to Utah, the first time I met Apiel she was not seeking help for herself. Rather, she was ardently advocating for her refugee neighbor. Seeing Apiel’s passion for helping others in addition to her intelligence leaves me with no doubt that she will achieve all the dreams that she brought with her to the United States.