Sharefa Daw knows first-hand the determination of refugees to succeed: “All refugees have survival skills. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t have made it here”. Her experience of escaping the longest ongoing civil war in the world motivated her to join the IRC Dallas team in 2006. She now works in Reception and Placement ensuring families have the resources needed to rebuild their lives in the United States, thousands of miles from everything and, sometimes, everyone they know.
After fleeing religious discrimination and political persecution in Myanmar, Sharefa lived in Thailand with her family in constant fear of detention and deportation. Sharefa’s children dreamed of one-day returning home to Rangoon, but with limited options her family began the application process to move to the United States. Resettled by the International Rescue Committee in Dallas in 2005, she speaks fondly of her experience with the IRC from the moment she arrived in Dallas with her husband and three children. “In the camps, there is no humanity, there is no dignity. [With the IRC,] for the first time, I was treated like a person again.”
As a resettlement caseworker, Sharefa is involved with refugee families before they land in the United States: placing them based on local ties and medical needs and providing cultural orientation. Before they arrive, IRC staff and volunteers work to make sure their future apartment is ready to call “home” – setting up furniture, stocking groceries, and prepping their first dinner. When the family arrives, IRC Dallas caseworkers and any local friends or relatives welcome them at the airport, and take the family to their new home. For the next 90 days, the resettlement team provides support to get them on their feet – including English-language classes, financial coaching, immigration services, and job training classes.
Over a decade later, Sharefa says her biggest joy as a resettlement caseworker is witnessing families buy their first houses and cars, their children begin school and continue to university. While living in Thailand, Sharefa never dreamed her kids would go to college; so far, two are university graduates. Her oldest daughter recently graduated from Texas Tech University wtih a Masters of Education. In the United States, refugee families are given a new chance at life and safety; IRC Dallas’s resettlement team is determined to ensure every family has the opportunity to succeed.
Story by Sarah Shaikh