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  • Teresa Stecker

Witnessing Refugees Rise

Samia left her home in the war-torn Nuba Mountains of Sudan in 2002. It was a period of high conflict due to religious persecution and starvation in that area. After a brief stay in Khartoum, she fled to Egypt in 2003, where she would spend 12 years as a refugee, “A very long time,” as she puts it.


Thinking back on those 12 years, Samia ponders, “Life as a refugee was sometimes good, but sometimes not good. Sometimes safe, sometimes not safe.” Samia dealt with uncertainty and insecurity every day. So, in 2003 through the United Nations, she applied to emigrate to the United States as a refugee. While she waited for her application to be processed, she attended school to develop skills in childcare. In 2015, after a very long wait, Samia landed in Chicago to start her new life in the United States. She moved to Moline, where she worked and took English lessons at a Catholic church and a local college.


In 2017, she decided to move to Alaska where she took on a completely different kind of challenge - Samia worked on a fishing boat, working in difficult physical conditions out on the ocean every day. About her Alaskan experience, she explains succinctly, “No time for English classes, I just had to work very hard every day.” Unfortunately, Samia had an accident on the boat and got badly hurt, and decided to return to the midwest. In 2018, she moved to Iowa City and started taking English lessons at Kirkwood College and IC Compassion. When talking about her goals, her focus is very clear, Samia wants to study so that she can someday work in the field of nursing or childcare.


At IC Compassion, Samia is a positive, inspiring presence. A dedicated learner, she was the first student to sign up for the intensive ELL program being piloted at IC Compassion; her progress has been remarkable. She has also joined a sewing group and is also now a volunteer at IC Compassion. When asked about her life in Sudan long ago, she says “Iowa City is safe for me. I have everything here. No problems. I love it over here.”



As she builds her life in Iowa City, Samia does not sit still, waiting for things to be given. She faces her challenges head on, seeks solutions, and keeps on walking toward her goals. Right now, she is walking the path to citizenship. And we are cheering her on. Way to go, Samia! You inspire us.


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