Stories: Mohammad

“This is our family now.”

Like hundreds of refugees in Chicago, Mohammad’s stability was upended by the COVID-19 pandemic. He had been holding a steady job for more than a year, but was furloughed, then let go completely with the majority of his coworkers.

It was difficult for refugees to access unemployment, public benefits, and other forms of pandemic assistance during the early days of the pandemic. Complex applications are challenging to navigate for those who are still learning English and grappling to adjust to life in the U.S.

Thankfully, Mohammad had the support of a team of volunteer co-sponsors who were there to offer support during his time of need.

Judy and other volunteers from two partnering churches organized food deliveries and checked in regularly with Mohammad and his family. They even took them grocery shopping, helping them understand important health and safety protocol like wearing masks and how to properly wipe down surfaces.

This isn’t the team’s first time co-sponsoring a refugee family. Some of Judy’s favorite memories over the years come from sharing in each other’s cultures, holidays, and traditions, including learning how to make tom yum soup from a family.

“It’s been such a rewarding experience. We were especially grateful for the trainings RefugeeOne provided,” said Judy. “They really prepare you for a lot of things you might not expect.”

Judy’s team forged their partnership days after former President Trump announced a travel ban one week after his inauguration. Originally motivated by the rampant myths and negative rhetoric about refugees, Judy says they continue the work today because of the relationships they’ve formed.

That affinity was evident at a gathering the team hosted for the family. When asked if they had other relatives in the U.S., Mohammad looked around proudly and said, “This is our family now.”

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