Women share their stories
SHC: Tell me a little bit about yourself and about your work.
Véronique: I am a chef at Foodhini [a DC area food delivery service that employs refugees and immigrants]. I cook different foods. Food from my country and French food.
SHC: How does it feel going to work every day during Coronavirus?
Véronique: It’s not easy. I am scared because too many people are sick. I go there every day and work hard. I make money and I go home. I need money because I have two children and my mom who is not working.
SHC: What gives you strength to carry on?
Véronique: I love what I do. It is my greatest joy. I have always liked to be a chef. Foodhini gave me that opportunity. In my country I helped with our family cooking business. That’s how I know all kinds of dishes.
SHC: What makes you most proud about your work?
Véronique: Through my dishes I help my clients travel to Africa. I work hard for customers and every week I come up with new creations. You won’t find the recipes on YouTube, they are my own dishes. Maybe one day I will have my own YouTube channel and restaurant!
SHC: What are your hopes for your family?
Véronique: I want my daughters to have a good education. I would like my husband to be with me and I would like us to live happily in this country that welcomes us.
SHC: What do you wish people knew about refugees?
Véronique: I would like people to know that refugees have a dream that has been destroyed and that they want to rebuild. They want to integrate and be like Americans. They also want to contribute to the development of the country. However people must know that we have hardships, especially language, and money. The first two years are the hardest.
SHC: Is there anything else that you would like to say?
Véronique: Yes, I would like brothers from our countries and from every religion to help each other. I would like peace among us. We came to start over and we need to be united to succeed.
SHC: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your life here?
Shogofa: I am from Afghanistan. My two brothers, my cousin and my sister in law live in the neighborhood. I am happy here because security is good. School is good for the children. There are more job opportunities.
SHC: What has been your greatest difficulty in the US?
Shogofa: I miss my family because I have lived four years in the US and have not gone back. I wanted to travel this summer, but we cannot because of Coronavirus.
SHC: You have been studying English with SHC and you are a very hard-working student. Why is English important to you?
Shogofa: Yes, I want to speak faster English. Everybody is staying in the US so they need to learn English. Women do everything here and need to speak English. And I want to be able to help my children with their school homework. I like to learn English at SHC because the teachers help every student. I love all the teachers working at SHC.
SHC: What do you dream to accomplish in the future?
Shogofa: I want to do my driving test. I want to have a job, after my son starts school. My dream is to start a clothing shop with clothes from different cultures. I would design them with my friends and order them from Afghanistan. The Afghani dress is very beautiful and colorful.
SHC: You always help other students in class and now you encourage women in your community to help families back home in Afghanistan as well. Tell us more about this?
Shogofa: I told my friends that every time I go shopping, and if I spend $200, I want to save $20 and give it to people in Afghanistan who have no work or food. $20 is not much money in the US but it is a lot to a person in Afghanistan. Now twenty one people are saving and if a family is not doing well we can help. I really want to help my people. I tell my husband that when I work, I want to send money to Afghanistan every time I get paid.
SHC: What do you wish people knew about Afghani people coming to the US?
Shogofa: Afghani people here are supported. American people are very kind, they know about Afghani history.
SHC: Is there anything else you would like to share?
Shogofa: Thank you. I am glad to stay here. My neighborhood is good. My neighbors, Spanish, African and everyone is very kind and respectful. I respect them too.
SHC: Mahnoush, you came to the US over 3 years ago and now you have a regular job and a car. Your mother and brother even bought a house. How do you feel your family is doing?
Mahnoush: I am so happy, we are so happy. It was a hard time but now we have a good job, good money. Things are good. People think everything will be good here [in the US]. I don’t want to say it is not true but you need to be really smart and really strong. Life is not easy here at all.
I have one memory from my first week. Never I will forget that week. I was sharing a room in Laurel and I went for an interview in Virginia. Because I was new, I didn’t know anything. I did not check the hours for the bus. When I finished the interview I realized there was no bus until 5:00 am. I swear to God, I was stuck and it was snowing and freezing and I sat there for almost four to five hours. Finally one of the bus drivers came over. He said he had seen me there for the past four hours. He said: “You cannot be homeless? Do you have an address?” I was crying as a baby. He let me sit in his bus and he took me to my house. When I got home I was shaking and I cried for two to three more hours. But after that week I got a job as a life-guard. They [my employer] helped me a lot and gave me an advance on my pay. With my money I went to a dealership. The owner was an old man. I told him I have no credit but I can make the payments. He said: "that’s fine". He didn’t even ask for a down-payment! I don’t know why he trusted me or why he helped me but he put my name on his insurance as if I were his step-daughter. Six months later I got my own insurance and two years ago I went to visit him and brought him coffee and donuts to say thank you. I hope God is good to him.
SHC: When you think about episodes like this and your life since you arrived in the US, what makes you feel proudest?
Mahnoush: I didn’t see my son for eight years. I need to fix everything before he gets here. [Mahnoush is petitioning the US government for a visa to bring her son to the US to live with her.] Now I have a government job as a manager for a big pool. I have a nice car. That is not easy to do but I need to be perfect because of my son. I am proud that I did it and everything is ready for him.
SHC: Today you have an instagram page to help people in the community?
Mahnoush: Yes I have an instagram page with more than 5,000 followers. While I have been staying home for Coronavirus, I started to make donations to people who do not have anything to eat, who cannot pay rent, or pay the doctor. I ask for help from my friends. We need to help each other. It makes me feel really good and I can sleep at night.
SHC:We will observe World Refugee Day on June 20th. What message would you like to share on this occasion?
Mahnoush: If people [newcomers] come to the US and do not know English, I tell them do not get nervous and confused, you can learn everything. As a refugee you have to be strong. Leave behind who you were in your country and start from zero. I feel you because I had the same situation. I know you will pass this hard time and one day you will look back on it and be proud that you are past it.
SHC: Do you have a message to add for SHC volunteers?
Mahnoush: Yes, I appreciate you for your hard work. Most people don’t care but I am so happy that we have you and that you care about what happens in our life”.