Liyema arrived in Indianapolis with her baby daughter Sarah in April 2017, leaving behind her mom and five sisters in a Zambian refugee camp. Her first year in the U.S. was tough without her family. “I was worried about no refugees coming. I saw other families reuniting together and I always asked, “When will I see my family again?”
She missed her family every day and was concerned for their safety. “Life in the camp is difficult. We used to grow our own food, but it didn’t always grow, so there were days we didn’t have food, ” she said. “I used to see other kids with their grandmother, but not Sarah. I used to pray that she would one day have her grandmother.”
That’s when Elsa and Jon Sands and other members from Trinity Episcopal Church stepped in to help. They had previously served on a Welcome Team for another refugee family and Elsa loved being a volunteer English teacher in our classroom.
“Refugees are just like us,” she said. It’s rewarding to see how hard working they are. They want to work and learn English. They have tremendous drive and want to succeed.”
Elsa and her friends from Trinity assisted Liyema with childcare resources, learning new bus routes, and figuring out her finances. “Churches should be involved,” Elsa explained. “You need a lot of hands on work. A lot of work that is involved is navigating complicated systems. Helping navigate the difficulties of a regular life.”
Liyema was grateful for the friendship of her mentors during such a challenging time. “I was blessed with them,” she said. “They comforted me like I was part of their family. I can never repay them.”
With help from Exodus and her mentors, Liyema worked hard to build a new life and support herself and Sarah. “Seeing her smile was a wonderful thing,” said Elsa. “Seeing how she manages her childcare was very rewarding. She knew she would make it and not drown.”
One year and six months later, the wait was finally over. Exodus staff shared the news with Liyema that her family would be coming to Indianapolis. She was overjoyed.
Today, her sisters are still in awe of Liyema’s ability to navigate life in the U.S. “Since we came, she’s been showing us everything and everywhere,” her sisters said. After all she has been through, Liyema is empowered to help her family make a new start. And, her American friends will be standing by her side while she does it.
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