Written by: Alyssa Van Hofwegen, World Relief Seattle Caseworker
I simply could not hold back my excitement. But I knew that I couldn’t hold more joy than my friend who was going to see her mom, dad, & seven brothers and sisters after two years of separation. They had lived worlds apart during this time: suburban Seattle vs. Ethiopian refugee camp, spacious apartment vs. crowded tent, opportunity for work and school vs. confinement to an area with limited education opportunities. On that particular night, my friend’s family stepped into her world of gigantic change. And I was beyond thrilled to witness this reunion.
In May 2011, I met my friend for the first time when she came as a refugee to SeaTac airport. I introduced myself as the caseworker to this single 21-year-old Somali woman; later she divulged that as she exited her gate she was so happy to see a short, friendly girl instead of a giant man. Throughout the following months I helped her get to know her new community, got her connected ESL and services, and World Relief helped her find her first job as a housekeeper in a Bellevue hotel. My goodness, housekeeping is hard work! But she did it, and studied at the community college in the evenings. I admire her deeply. As it goes, we saw each other less and less, but whenever my friend visited me at the office we hugged long and held hands as we caught up on life.
Last month I got to call my friend with her long-awaited news: the rest of her family was coming! With excited voices, we discussed flight details, the apartment rental, and airport transportation plans. My friend recently passed her driver’s license test, and nothing could stop her from driving her parents on the roads of the United States. A week later, the whole family boarded their plane to America: mom, dad, one brother, and six sisters. On that night at the airport, my friend finally saw their beautiful faces again. She hugged each of them, held their hands tight, and drove her family to their new home.