In October 2014, Farah, her husband and their three daughters moved from Saudi Arabia to the United States of America, with hopes of starting a small business. After only ten days, Farah’s husband headed back to Saudi Arabia, saying he needed to close up the family business and would come back with more money. He never returned.
Farah was left with three young daughters in an overcrowded apartment with no money. “Whatever I had, he took from me,” Farah said. As hard as she tried, Farah’s husband refused to send money, leaving Farah in poverty with a visa that would soon expire. In an unknown place, with three daughters, no money and no car, Farah didn’t know where to turn.
Luckily, the principal at her daughters’ elementary school connected Farah with York Community Resource Center. It was there that she met York’s case manager, Zully Albornoz.
York Community Resource Center is Outreach’s newest site and Farah was one of Zully’s first clients. As a case manager, Zully helps residents in the Lombard and Villa Park area who are experiencing a personal crisis. “I help people get through difficult, temporary situations. I always stress that they’re temporary,” Zully said. “This includes financial assistance, immigration issues, child abuse and other basic needs. Whatever it is, I’m there and I help find resources.”
She did just that with Farah. “Alone with no support,” as Farah told Zully on that first meeting, Farah was in need of financial help, medical services for her children and, most importantly, a solution to her situation of a soon-to-expire visa.
Farah explained that she was stuck. Because of religious disagreements, it was not safe for her to go back to her family in Pakistan. Because her husband refused to help Farah financially or bring her back home, her Saudi Arabian identification card had expired and she was unable to reenter the country. She didn’t know what to do. With the help of York staff, Farah was able to contact a lawyer and apply for asylum. Zully helped Farah write her story and her application was accepted. “She is grateful,” Zully said. “Asylum is a long process, and there were times when she thought she couldn’t do it. But she did, and I admire her patience.”
Slowly, with the help of Zully and the resources at York, Farah is getting back on her feet. Along with financial assistance, York has provided many services for Farah’s family. When Farah realized one of her daughters was struggling with depression, York connected the family to Warrenville Youth & Family Services for counseling. Farah’s daughters also attend York’s after-school program, which gives Farah peace of mind, as she knows her daughters will be somewhere safe and enriching while she’s at work.
“This is a very big thing that they are doing for me and for my kids, especially for their education,” Farah said. “They could have told me: ‘This is not our problem. They are your kids, not our kids.’ But they didn’t. They feel like they are their own kids.”
The after-school program at York meets from 2:30 to 6 p.m., five days a week, and is an educational opportunity for many students. “It’s a structured program,” Zully said. “We work with what they’re learning in school. The program also provides opportunities for kids to socialize and develop social-emotional life skills.” During the summer, York offers an all-day youth program with an aim to retain the skills that are learned during the school year.
Farah is incredibly grateful for what York has done and continues to do for her. She cherishes her relationship with Zully. “She really is an angel in my life. If she wasn’t there, maybe I wouldn’t be able to survive,” Farah said. “I’m always praying for her.”
Farah and Zully continue to meet regularly, though this is not the case for all of York’s clients. “In situations like Farah’s, we provide long-term help. I meet with Farah every week. For others, our help is more short term. For people struggling with financial issues, like not being able to pay their rent, mortgage or bills, we help them out for that month, so that they can become stable. We work hard to follow-up with clients and make sure they’re on the right track, so that they’re not in this position again in two or three months.”
Though Farah has come a long way since she first stepped into Zully’s office, she knows she still has a long way to go and she’s determined to do so.
Farah is currently looking to find a job in the nursing field. She became a registered nurse in Pakistan and worked as a nurse for 14 years in Saudi Arabia. Now, she hopes to use her skills to find a career for herself in the United States. “If I need to take extra classes, I’m willing to do that. Even working in a nursing home, or as an assistant nurse, I will do that,” Farah said.
With the help she has received from York—financial, educational and emotional—Farah is up for the challenge. “At York, they are very good people. They are working for each and every person,” Farah said. “They helped me stand on me feet so that I can survive with my daughters and I can provide them with a good future,” she says. “My whole life, I just bent my head in front of [my husband]. Now this is my time. I am a mother of three daughters. I thank God that I have all these people, and they make me strong. I am ready.”