Our clients come from vastly different backgrounds, countries, and cultures, yet they all have something in common: tremendous perserverance in the face of hardship. Below you can read about some of our clients' backgrounds and their achievements here in America.
Qahtan Mustafa was born and raised in Baghdad, Iraq. In 2003, he decided to use his English-language abilities to become an interpreter and cultural advisor for the U.S. Armed Forces. Working with U.S. Forces was incredibly dangerous, and other interpreters regularly went missing or turned up dead. Yet for five years, Qahtan continued; even if he had left his job as an interpreter, he would always be targeted as a “traitor” by militant groups in Iraq. Finally, in 2009, Qahtan, his wife, and their son left Baghdad, their lifelong home, and came to Austin, Texas as refugees.
Since arriving in America, Qahtan has worked with RST, first as a translator, then Pre-Arrival Case Manager, and today as the Community Integration Supervisor. He and his wife became American citizens in 2014. You can read more about Qahtan's story on our blog
Nah Wah was one of the earliest RST clients resettled in Amarillo, entering Texas among the first Burmese refugees to arrive in the area. Nah Wah came as a "single case," meaning she came without any family. Despite the additional challenges for refugees who come without family, Nah Wah thrived. She worked in a Tyson Food meat-processing plant, like many refugees in the area. Back in the refugee camp she had been a nurse's assistant and she went on to earn her Certified Nurse's Assistant (CNA) License from Amarillo College (but returned to work at the Tyson plant, however, due to the higher wages). She married a fellow Burmese man with whom she had two children. After earning citizenship, she and her husband were able to bring her sister and her husband's brother to the U.S. Two years ago, the family even purchased their first home, a momentous achievement for any refugee and the culmination of years of hard work towards self-sufficiency.
Celine* (not her real name) is from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). She came to America alone and requiring immediate medical attention for a leg injury that had not healed properly. When armed conflict broke out in the DRC several years ago, Celine* was forced to flee her home. While fleeing, however, she fell and broke her femur. Several days passed before help arrived. Once at a refugee camp, a western doctor performed an operation to stabilize her leg, but he left the country before removing her external fixator, causing her leg to fuse in place. Celine's* first several months in the U.S. were filled with doctor appointments and visits to specialists, but she soon learned surgery was not an option. Despite the obstacles that face refugees arriving alone and the additional challenges she had to overcome due to her injury, Celine* is now a thriving community member and is able to get around quite easily in spite of her limited mobility.
Jean-Claude was born and raised in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Conditions in DRC degenerated the same year Jean-Claude turned 16, and young men like him were frequently targeted for forced conscription in rebel armies. He fled on foot to Tazania, only to return a few years later when the violence had seemed to subside. Upon return, however, a rebel army kidnapped hundreds of young men who refused to join their ranks. Thanks to a friend who had joined the rebel faction, Jean-Claude again escaped to Tanzania. He eventually saved up enough money to go to Zimbabwe, where he had heard conditions for refugees were much better.
In Zimbabwe, Jean-Claude devoted himself to studying, eventually earning a Bachelor’s degree and two Master's degrees while living in a refugee camp. After Zimbabwe was struck by severe food shortages, Jean-Claude was again afraid for his life as Zimbabweans grew violent towards refugees. He applied for official refugee status with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and after five more years was settled in Fort Worth. Today, Jean-Claude is married with two kids and earned a third Master's degree. He is an advocate for the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) Refugee Academy, a Refugee Congress Delegate for UNHCR, a leading member in a local refugee ministry, and a valued employee of RST. A more detailed version of Jean-Claude's story is available on our blog!