Where There's Resilience, There's a Way

Fatemeh was only 12 years old when she married her husband in Afghanistan. They had a son together and endured many hardships, at one point fleeing to Iran for safety. At 25, she divorced her husband and returned to Afghanistan with her young son. Being a divorcée in Afghanistan was not culturally acceptable, and Fatemeh had to be very resilient to stay afloat.

Unbelievably, due to turmoil in Afghanistan, she fled to Turkey and lived in a refugee camp with her son. There, she received her refugee status under the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and was invited to resettle in the U.S. in 2016.

To put this stroke of luck in perspective, only 1% of the world’s refugees are ever resettled.

Fatemeh arrived in California, and her case was managed by World Relief Sacramento. World Relief is one of the nine national resettlement agencies in the U.S. tasked with helping newly arrived refugees settle into local communities. Upon moving to Sacramento, Fatemeh took on multiple jobs to provide for her family. She worked as a housekeeper, driver and security guard all at once! She had little time to learn English, and knew this would be a major barrier to pursuing her passions. The language barrier made her feel isolated, and she found it hard to integrate into American society.

We first met Fatemeh in April 2018 through Joy, the Community Engagement Manager at World Relief Sacramento. Fatemeh cooked us a delicious Afghan meal and we spent hours talking about her hopes and dreams. Despite all the hardships she has faced, she told us,

“My major goals are to help other women in the Afghan refugee community become independent. Many women depend on their husbands, and I want to change this."

After learning of Fatemeh’s strength and determination, we were compelled to support her journey towards economic empowerment. With our new initiative in place, Fatemeh became one of our very first grantees!

LONA supports Fatemeh with funding to enroll full-time in ESL courses and one-on-one tutoring for 3 months.

Amazingly, World Relief Sacramento matched this grant, agreeing to support her for an additional three months while she continues her education.

As she immerses herself in the English language, she works towards her dream of opening a child care center. For refugee women, lack of affordable child care is a common barrier to attending ESL classes, enrolling in educational programs and joining the workforce. Fatemeh’s center would provide a place for refugee children to integrate into society alongside other children, and allow mothers to pursue jobs or education. Additionally, Fatemeh hopes to employ refugee women at the center itself!

From all angles, Fatemeh’s child care center would be a major source of inspiration and hope for the refugee community in Sacramento. 

Additionally, Fatemeh sees herself thriving in her local community. A touching example of this is her ability to serve as a translator for her neighbor at doctor’s visits (how cool is that?!) She also helps support a new initiative for Afghan women that World Relief Sacramento launched this year. The initiative focuses on English learning, community building and self-sufficiency for refugee women.

The realization of her dream will take time and resources, but Fatemeh’s ability to speak fluent English will offer a multitude of opportunities no matter where her dreams take her. In just four months time, she has already been exposed to job opportunities that were not previously available to her. We are certain that investing in Fatemeh’s ability to learn English is most certainly an investment in her future.

The popular phrase “where there’s a will, there’s a way” may apply to Fatemeh, but we attribute her success to unwavering resilience and thoughtfulness. We hope you’ll join us in supporting this awe-inspiring woman on her journey to obtain economic empowerment for herself AND others.

-Amy Gragnolati, LONA Co-founder

To support future grantees like Fatemeh, donate today!


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