Everyday, people like Ibrahim make the painful decision to leave their homes due to persecution, conflict, violence, human rights violations and climate-related factors. Their journeys are often marked by loss, separation and worry for those left behind.
For ten years, Ibrahim carried the weight of being separated from his family. This is his story of enduring hope.
An Impossible Decision
Ibrahim was born and raised in the Darfur region of western Sudan. He worked various jobs — housekeeping, construction, office administration — to provide for his family. He was married with three children and a fourth on the way.
While Ibrahim loved his home and community, the civil conflict left him feeling uneasy and concerned for his family’s safety.
For decades, Darfur has been embroiled in a conflict fueled by ethnic disputes and limited resources. In 2003, a rebel group launched an insurrection in Darfur, protesting what they believed was the Sudanese government’s disregard for non-Arab ethnic groups in the region. In response, the government armed ethnically Arab militias to combat rebels in Darfur.
Despite international attempts at peacebuilding and intervention, the conflict worsened. Militias threatened the lives and livelihoods of non-Arab civilians, burned down thousands of villages, committed sexual violence and blocked aid organizations from delivering much-needed food and medical supplies.
In 2013, as a renewed wave of violence gripped the region, Ibrahim made the heart-wrenching decision to flee Sudan, leaving behind his wife and children, hoping to find help.
“There was too much killing, too much fighting,” he said. “It was impossible to live.”
Ibrahim arrived in Jordan, where he had heard help was available. He registered with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), meticulously completing his paperwork.
“I always wrote my kids’ names as my family on all the papers — all the dates of birth and everything,” Ibrahim said. He wanted to make sure records of his wife and children, still in Sudan, were included in his case so that they too would be resettled in a new country with him.
Ibrahim found work, sent money home to his family and waited.
Two years went by until one day, Ibrahim learned that his case had been approved for resettlement in the U.S. He passed all required security and health screenings, but because his family was still in Sudan, they could not travel with him.
Ibrahim remembers feeling like he had escaped death.
“When I arrived, I was so grateful for World Relief because they helped me with everything,” Ibrahim said. “They helped me with a place to stay. They were able to find work for me, and they helped until I felt that I could do things for myself.”
And yet, as Ibrahim rebuilt his life in the U.S., he never stopped thinking of his wife and children, still stuck in Sudan. They frequently spoke over the phone — and Ibrahim continued to hope.
“I couldn’t really rest or enjoy all the blessings I had because I kept on thinking about them all the time,” Ibrahim said. “I never felt complete.”
Hoping and Waiting
Now in the U.S., Ibrahim continued working with IOM in the hopes of bringing his family to North Carolina. He was persistent, calling for updates whenever he could.
With IOM’s help, he was eventually able to secure interviews for his wife at the U.S. embassy in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. Still, the process crept forward slowly.
Then, in 2019, just when everything finally looked ready to move forward, Ibrahim encountered another obstacle — the president of the United States announced a new executive order banning Sudanese people from traveling to the U.S., Ibrahim’s family included.
Ibrahim remembers being told, “Everything is correct; all the papers are the way they’re supposed to be. There are just some rules that they’re not allowing people.”
He began to doubt whether he would ever see his wife and children again. “I almost lost hope,” he said.
But then, in 2021, he got a call. A new U.S. presidential administration had reversed the executive order. Over the phone, he heard the long-hoped-for words: “Your family is coming.”
Ten years after Ibrahim had to leave his family behind in search of safety, after years of hoping and waiting, they would be reunited at last.
In February 2022, Ibrahim gathered with staff from World Relief Triad at the airport to welcome his wife and four children to North Carolina.
“I broke down in tears because I hadn’t seen them in 10 years, and now they’re here, and it’s real,” Ibrahim said.
“The little one that I left was only three months; when he came, he was 10 years old. I cannot describe how I felt because I never thought — I was at the point of thinking maybe I will never see them again.”
Now, with his family finally together again, Ibrahim has new hopes.
“My hopes are for my kids,” he said. “For them to get the right education, for them to be good people. I want them to make something for themselves and make me proud… for them to benefit themselves and our new country — the United States.”
Remembering Those Left Behind
Even as Ibrahim and his family continue building their new life together in the U.S., Darfur and the family, friends, and neighbors they had to leave behind are never far from his mind.
“People are really suffering there. They don’t have food, they don’t have water, they live in very unsafe, unhealthy conditions,” he said.
The UN estimates that 2.5 million people are living in displacement camps across Darfur, and 6.2 million people will need humanitarian assistance in the region within the next year. The same factors — war, violence, and persecution — that drove Ibrahim and his family from their home still impact people in Sudan today.
At World Relief, we recognize that addressing the drivers of mass displacement requires a multi-faceted and holistic response. In Sudan, World Relief is on the ground providing humanitarian assistance and investing in development and peacebuilding efforts to address the underlying factors contributing to conflict and displacement.
Building a just world means coming alongside families like Ibrahim’s once they’ve reached the U.S. and it means finding lasting solutions to the problems that force families to flee in the first place.
For Ibrahim, his hope for safety and brighter futures for those still in Darfur endures — “I really would like for them to… have a better life for themselves and for their kids.”
Together, we are taking action, hoping and praying for lasting solutions for displaced and separated families like Ibrahim’s both in the U.S. and in countries around the world.
World Relief Memphis, along with many other World Relief offices across the U.S., rely on partners and volunteers like you to help build welcoming communities. Join us on the path to hope, transformation, and lasting change alongside refugees and immigrants like Ibrahim.
Kelly Hill serves as a Content Writer at World Relief. She previously served as Volunteer Services Manager at World Relief Triad in North Carolina before moving to Salt Lake City. With a background in International and Intercultural Communication, she is passionate about the power of story to connect people of diverse experiences.
Abby Ray has been serving as the Communications & Advocacy Coordinator at World Relief’s Triad office since September 2021. She works to amplify the voices of clients, staff, and community members by empowering them to share their own stories.