Updated: Sep 29
This Sarah's resident story is about an African woman we will call Amare, which means "love." This part of the story is about Amare growing up in her home country and by the end you will know Amare's love for Sarah's and the Sisters of St. Joseph.
Amare’s early life was okay and focused on school. It was normal and expected in her home country for girls to go to school. Amare came from an average family that could afford a home, enough food, and to send her to school through college.
In adulthood, Amare realized it was no longer safe for women and girls. She knew she needed to mind her words carefully to be safe. In the U.S. if you express an opinion different from what the government is expressing or you do something they don’t think you should be doing, you don’t worry about losing your job. But, if you do what the government doesn’t support in other countries like Amare’s, you would be penalized much more harshly. People around her were being arrested, jailed, raped, tortured, or even killed.
Amare was fearful she would lose her position or worse, seeing others around were suffering without jobs and living with poverty. The government wasn’t supportive and it became difficult also for people to access healthcare. It was apparent this was happening in direct result from things the government was doing. Amare felt stuck because she felt compassion for those who were without what they needed, but helping people to get food, housing, or healthcare was going against the government.
Realizing she was in danger, Amare started learning about escaping (leaving the country). She had a relative in the U.S. who she talked to and said they could receive her but that after that she needed to find other space. Because they understood she was in danger they quickly agreed to take her into their home. Amare managed to escape.
Amare’s journey to the U.S. felt really dangerous because she was all alone and didn’t know what was going to happen each step of the way.
Additionally, she did not know what the people were like that she was going to stay with. What would happen after she would have to leave their home (they were clear about a short stay) weighed heavily on her. She had no plan for what she was going to do next. As a planning and responsible person, not being able to know the details was really scary.
All Amare could think was that at least she was safely away from her home country. If she had stayed, she would have been in certain peril.
When Amare first came to the U.S. she could not get a work permit so she was delayed paying back the borrowed funds. Every month Amare has to assure the people that loaned her money that she is still trying to find a job. Finally, a year after her arrival, she did get approved for a work permit. Just before COVID started, just over a year after she came to Sarah’s, Amare found a job. With COVID she has had fewer hours and less pay. She is barely able to cover her own expenses let alone pay back the loans. The constant stress of being in debt to people who are not patient with her adds to the stress of COVID which has been stressful enough. The isolation it requires gives too much space and time to her memories of why she had to leave her home country. Amare continues to hold tenuously onto the hope of retaining her job while other people are being laid off.
Staying with a relative in Minnesota, Amare quickly found out what it feels like when you are not very welcome. It’s not uncommon for hosting families to believe two weeks is long enough for newcomers to get settled and into a place of their own. After two weeks, the pressure to leave was unbearable.
A service organization thankfully knew about Sarah’s as no other place was available for Amare to move into. Knowing Amare could come to Sarah’s when the room was ready, (between 2 weeks and 3 months) the family relaxed their pressures.
Amare says that the only thing she misses at Sarah’s is her family, otherwise she is covered 360 degrees which has meant a ‘complete change of my life.’ Amare says it ‘FEELS safe beyond being told you are safe.’ Tearing up, Amare says, you feel
‘loved, accepted, welcomed. [Sarah’s] gave my life new birth. I lost hope in uncertainty. At Sarah’s, I feel hope, peace, and love. It’s a real opportunity to be here. My life started changing for the better being connected to assistance, finding an attorney, having the support though the case is slow, and an opportunity to develop myself. Things started moving when I knew I was being assisted, given everything I needed in life. I’m encouraged, supported, and feel I belong.’
Amare would tell donors about giving to Sarah’s that “staff are doing a tremendous job, touching, transforming, shaping, weaving, and giving life. Living at Sarah’s, hope is restored and permits me to live towards dreams. Compassion is not only like you feel it, it is demonstrated. Love is demonstrated. Staff are full of commitment, time, resources mending lives that were shattered/destroyed, doing life-saving work filled with love and support. The depth of love at Sarah’s is so deep, I am wondering sometimes am I dreaming or this is really happening.”
Amare does much at Sarah’s to support the household and women living there. She is a beloved member of the community, a “Sarah,” and will always be in the heart of Sarah’s.