Sunita Safi


Sunita is a twenty year old refugee woman from Afghanistan.  She arrived in Grand Rapids, along with her mother Mobina, on November 30, 2015. She is taking English classes, getting her GED, and looking for a job. She beams with hope and optimism and is thrilled to share her story. Sunita also translated part of this interview for her mother, Mobina.

  Leaving Home

“We fled from Afghanistan to India because we weren’t safe there. There is so much war, bomb blasts, and violence against women, so we left eight years ago to India. India was safer than Afghanistan but it was still hard. We didn’t have any right to education because we didn’t have identification cards or work permits to work properly and support a family. There are still a lot of crimes against girls in India."

 

India

"Even since I was young I wanted to study. When we fled Afghanistan, we left in a hurry; we didn't have time to get school records or identification cards. No school in India will accept you as a refugee without these documents, so I was unable to attend school. Even if you have your identification cards and school transcripts, school fees for foreigners are still often two or three times the price that Indians pay.

We were refugees for 8 years but in April 2015 the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) called us for an interview for resettlement. Our first interviews were with the UNHCR, Second interviews at IOM (International Organization for Migration), third in United States Embassy, and then medical checkup, cultural orientation, and then we flew. It took 8 months from the interview to come to the U.S." 

Transition

"Bethany (Christian Services) helped us with housing, education, going to English class. They helped us a lot to adjust to the new environment, especially my case manager, Katie. Whenever we needed anything, she was always there for us. Encounter Church is also supporting us.

A volunteer named Jane helped us to adjust. She's always in contact with us when we need something.  Jane took us places, some days we go to her house and sometimes she comes to our house, it's really good bonding. Jane helped us a lot. We just hang out and have fun instead of just working. It makes a big difference in our lives to have time for each other."

 

Faith

“There are no restrictions here for continuing our faith. We are still able to pray from our home five times a day. I have heard there is a mosque but I haven't seen it yet. But we are allowed to speak here and not be afraid.

So far in my experience, I haven’t seen any Americans that have judged us. I know there are a lot of people that don’t think Muslims are good, because they believe things that are shown on Facebook, like it’s only violence. I think if they want to know exactly what this religion is, they can search and see that it’s a group of people that makes it bad, and people react to what they see and think it’s the whole religion.”

Mother & Daughter

“My mom is my superhero and my number one role model. 

She has struggled a lot in her life, from her childhood until now.  When she got married, her husband passed about 5 years after their marriage and she never remarried. She worked hard to raise me and my sister. She has seen a lot of problems in her life.  I want to get a job, continue my education, and take care of my mom. I want to give her all the happiness I can give her, so she doesn't have to think about her past or bad struggles- but to give her a new life full of joy and happiness."

“I hope that my daughter completes her education, becomes a doctor, and gets a good job to stand on her feet and support herself.”

"She's free, she can go anywhere without permission or without wearing anything she's told to. I'm also happy too.  I don't know the language but I'm really grateful that my daughter can speak and share our problems and whatever need we have, we can talk directly, we're not dependent on any interpreters, my daughter is my interpreter."

What Others Should Know

"They should know that a refugee is also a human being. No one wants to leave their home, their relatives, and flee from their country. The problems are life threatening; they cannot live in their country with their family, so thats why they flee to another country as a refugee.

I think they should understand the pain and what they've been through. They should at least, do some research of what a refugee is and what kinds of problems and situations they face. In India I have lived for eight years. Many refugees have lived there for 20 years, 25 years, 15 years, but their future is nothing. Refugee life is very painful, if they research, it's full of pain, So they should at least understand this and not judge refugees like 'they're not our people.' They should at least understand their pain."

Freedom

"I'm really excited to be here.  We are free to speak and share our story."