“How do you feel about America?”
“I don’t like. I’m not happy. I don’t sleep, I don’t eat. I don’t want to go outside. I am afraid.”
My Rohingya friend was resettled to the States after fleeing Myanmar. I met her in Asia when she was 18 years old. She was shy, afraid, and unable to speak a word of English. We had no idea what tomorrow held for her. We were the same age, so we quickly gravitated towards each other.
She was resettled to the States shortly after I moved back to Colorado for college.
She arrived in a small town in Georgia, where she started her new life. I saw her twice, both times I was very worried about her health, both mentally and physically. She quickly fell into depression, overwhelmed by the amount of change. To add to the stress, her family’s village in Myanmar was attacked, and her parents and siblings fled to Bangladesh. She was devastated, knowing that she couldn’t be with her family. She felt isolated and lonely because of her inability to speak English.
She closed herself off from everyone.
Fast forward to 2019, when I asked her this same question.
“I am so happy! I am married, I have two children, we bought a house, I speak English very well. I go outside. I have amazing friends. I am so happy.”
It was all because of a few individuals in the town who changed everything for her.
When things seemed hopeless for my friend, she was quickly embraced by the incredible community in her new American town.
And suddenly her entire perspective of America changed.
Hailey and I visited her family in Bangladesh earlier this year. We dropped by her home in Georgia to share photos and gifts from her family.
She smiled as she flipped through the photo album we brought her. She asked Hailey and I to take her family photo.
They ran to the bedroom to change. She changed into her fanciest dress and her husband came out in a suit. She wanted us to take the photo to her mother in Bangladesh.
We went outside for the family photo. They stood with their two sons in front of their house with a white picket fence.
A beautiful, young Rohingya family living a picturesque American Dream.
It was the first time I saw my friend truly, genuinely happy. She finally found a place that she can call home. A place that welcomes and embraces her family. A place with friends.
The path of a refugee is lonely, especially during resettlement to a third country. As Americans, it is our duty to welcome the refugee into our lives and provide a safe space for them.
The community in Georgia is the living example of this. These individuals have changed my friend’s life forever. I am so grateful for the people who have welcomed her in and shown her so much love.
She is finally safe. She is finally home.