Over the ten years World Relief Memphis has been in operation, we have had the privilege of serving hundreds of refugees, asylees, and other vulnerable immigrants. Last Fall, our office was able to connect with several clients about their journey to the U.S. and their experience with World Relief. Each interview was humbling and moving to hear. One of these such interviews was with Diana.
Diana grew up in a small mountain city in Venezuela. She recalled fondly, “Everyone in Venezuela always wants to go to my city because it is very beautiful. I love that place a lot.” In her home town, Diana was able to study accounting and eventually work as an accountant. She loved her life, but sadly it became more and more clear that she could not stay.
“For many years this has been happening in my country. There is a very bad political and economic situation, and an especially bad situation with persecution. So that pushed me to make the decision to come here for help.” She explained how her life at home rapidly fell apart. She had to quit her job and she didn’t feel safe in her own home let alone her country. After making the difficult decision to leave the home she loved, she began the process of filing for political asylum in the U.S.
While waiting for the approval of her case, she found work as a cleaner. At the time, she did not know English and only had a small amount of money saved. With the job, she was able to save to pay for her papers and her asylum case was approved!
It has now been several years since Diana came to the States and the process for filing for asylum has become even more challenging. She reflected back and noted that, “I was very lucky because they helped me very fast.” She shared how she has seen many people wait many months or even years for approval, but she was approved swiftly and is still so grateful.
After her approval, Diana looked through her papers and saw information from a World Relief office. She reached out to them, but, while waiting for a response, she researched places where she could study English. That is when she found World Relief Memphis’ Connect Language Center. Already having some friends, family, and a church connection there, finding the CLC was the final decider in her moving to Memphis.
After arriving and becoming a student at the Connect Language Center, she saw a sign for World Relief Memphis. At the time, the CLC was not located in the same building as World Relief Memphis, so Diana did not immediately know they were connected. Knowing what World Relief did, Diana went to her teacher and shared about her situation and was then able to be connected with services.
Diana was then enrolled as a client in the Connect Language Center and Economic Empowerment service lines. This helped cover the cost of her classes and aided her in job readiness and placement as well as budgeting.
Right away she wanted to get back to accounting work, but she knew she needed to develop her English skills first. Continuing at the CLC, Diana proved to be a dedicated student. “What I loved was the English classes.” New to the city without many connections, she enjoyed the comradery, diversity, and fun group experience of learning and growing together in the classes. “I really love World Relief because of the diversity. I love to meet people from around the world and work with them and take classes with them. I was able to make friends with people from Africa, Turkey, Mexico, Brazil, and Afghanistan. I have gotten very very good friends from classes.” Diana felt safe, she was even able to find housing through making friends with another woman in her class! They ended up being roommates for two years, before Diana met her husband.
After settling in to her life here in the U.S., Diana wanted to give back, and so she started volunteering. During the early days of COVID-19, the Memphis office worried about how to reach clients and their communities with updates and safety information. An idea then came about to have community ambassador Instagram accounts of which Diana ran the Spanish community account.
She also came alongside World Relief Memphis in helping with Cuban clients in a program called “Club Cuba.” Every Friday, Diana and other WR staff would go through presentations teaching newly arrived Cubans about things they needed to learn about living in the U.S. and in Memphis. They walked through the American health system, child care, transportation, job readiness, financial literacy, and much more!
Throughout her whole experience Diana shared how her faith was her rock.
“Before I made the decision to come here, I was in a very bad situation emotionally because I didn’t know exactly what to do. And I said, “God, you have to lead me to what I am going to do, because I don’t know if this is the right thing to do.” And then I came here, and I had the door open to me, and I knew people loved me and showed me that I am in a safe place. I think God put those people in my life. It (her faith) has been everything.”
Now, almost seven years later, Diana is married, is a “full time Mommy”, and looks to a whole new future ahead. She has dreams of raising her daughter to be strong and independent and be a good example for always trying your best. She still has her passion for accounting and one day hopes to be a business consultant helping with project management.
We are so grateful for Diana. Her example of perseverance, bravery, and heart for giving back reminds us of the importance of this work daily. Here at World Relief Memphis, we have seen Gods faithfulness these past ten years through the support from people like you. We thank you for joining us on our journey in making Memphis a more welcoming community.
If you were inspired by Diana’s story and want to know how you can partner with World Relief Memphis, check out our “get involved” page for more volunteer information today!
Writer: Kara Spencer
Communication Coordinator at World Relief Memphis, graduate of Harding University, & Memphis native.
Photo Credits: Emily Frazier
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