Our Stories – Hope
My name is Rose, a 14 year old girl. I’d like to tell y’all about my story. I was born and raised in Baghdad, the capital of Iraq, with two older sisters and a younger brother who was born 10 years later. Having worked for the United States army for approximately nine years, my father decided to apply for a Special Immigration Visa (SIV) program back in 2012. The main reason we decided to immigrate to the U.S is so that me and my siblings would have a safer life, away from danger, terrorism, racism, sexism, etc…We would have more opportunities, both academically and socially. The United States is a country of freedom, peace and equal opportunities. We wanted to run away from all the awful crimes that were performed against the citizens of Iraq.
After multiple incidents, like when a mortar landed on my home, my school got bombed, my father got into a car explosion, and many more unfortunate occasions, we knew that living in Iraq isn’t a choice anymore. I also wanted to go there to pursue my dream of becoming a doctor, I also wanted to pursue my hobbies, stuff that weren’t traditionally acceptable for a female to achieve back home. All that said, four and a half years later, we finally received our issued visas, booked a flight from Baghdad to Istanbul, Chicago, then Tennessee and now here I am, living in the fabulous city of Knoxville and I couldn’t be happier. Having lived in a society that I would describe as rather traditional, and somewhat confining, I couldn’t fulfill my desires, whether it was boxing, training, learning an instrument, art, or simply playing any type of sports. Now- I can and I’m really grateful for it. I am now positive that the rest of high school is going to be an exciting and self-constructing experience, especially with the support of so many amazing teachers, counselors and classmates.
In the news we often see unsettling images of people fleeing war and persecution in faraway countries. Many find a tenuous safety in refugee camps where only basic needs can be provided. It makes your heart ache. Like a lot of people, I tended to think of refugees as people who lived in places other than here, but in fact some of those same people are starting new lives here in Knoxville. Getting on your feet in a new culture isn’t easy, as any one who has lived abroad can testify. They have been through a lot and can use some help. I often drive individuals or families to doctor appointments, government agencies, etc. I frequently help them with the paperwork and work to remove obstacles that pop up. I also enjoy showing them around town and it is fun driving a newly-arrived family happily bantering away in a language I have abolutely no knowledge of. Afterwards, I am often invited in for tea or coffee and sometimes a meal. They are so grateful. I also have reason to show gratitude to some of these refugees. Many served alongside our troops in Iraq or Afghanistan. Others have been dissidents, standing up for basic human rights like freedom of speech. The staff at Bridge impress me with their dedication and hard work, which they perform with a much appreciated bonhomie. And they take my suggestions seriously. For instance, when I proposed that they procure some books for young children that were in their native language and that their parents could read to them, they took it to heart and obtained funding to purchase a number of books. Bridge will always have my support and I hope that more people will join them in what I consider a vital mission.