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Emma’s Story

Photo: Emma shares a smile with former World Relief Durham Immigration Legal Services Manager, Kjerstin Lewis, moments after receiving her green card.

Emma is a mother of four, a wife, a homeowner, a new business owner, and a resident of Durham. She is also one of this country’s new lawful permanent residents (green card holders). Emma came to the U.S. over 20 years ago to seek safety after experiencing violence in her hometown. She did not want to leave her country and her family, but she felt there was no other option for a future but to leave.  

Emma has made an impact on the community since coming to the U.S. After arriving in Durham, she met her husband, and they married and started their family. Throughout the years, Emma taught her children to give to others, because “you never know what someone else is going through.” Leading by example, she welcomes her children’s friends into her home as a safe space to stay, eat, play, and more. Emma calls them “her babies” and cares for them with love and affection. Similarly, several of them view Emma as their own mother, and call her and her husband, “Mom and Dad.” Even as they grow older, they still frequently visit Emma and spend holidays and weekends with her and her family. While most of her family still lives in and around Durham, one of her sons is deployed abroad as part of the U.S. Army.  

With the approval of her work authorization in the past year, Emma became a local small business owner. She and her husband have worked for years insulating basements and doing other construction projects as contract workers. After her work permit was approved and she received her social security number, Emma and her husband started their own home construction business and now hire contract workers for her company.  

While preparing her green card application, Emma shared that as soon as she was granted her green card, she wanted to return to her home country in a van filled with clothes, shoes, and other commodities for her family living there. She remembers being hungry, not having a bed, and not having a good life before coming to the U.S. and wants to give to her family back home. Even though the pandemic delayed her trip, once it is safe to travel, she still plans to drive to visit her family back home and see them for the first time since she left, over 20 years ago. 

Now, as she reflects upon her immigration process after receiving her green card, Emma shares, “I am very pleased and I give many thanks for the help I received. All you can do is work as God intended and if you behave very well, God always blesses you.”

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