by Meghan Long, Communications Fellow

The new sewing center started by World Relief has had a profound impact on 22-year-old Shamsa, who moved to Spokane three years ago. Not only has the center shown her how to practically care for her family, but through the six-week sewing class WEAVE (Women Empowered to Achieve Vocational Enrichment), she has met other motivated refugee women in the area. Her ten-month old daughter, Salwa, is her pride and joy, and having the opportunity to learn something new has made her excited to continue providing for her little girl. “Even if you go back to your home country, or somewhere else, or stay in the United States, if you learn how to sew, you might get some jobs,” Shamsa says. Family is very important to Shamsa, and her household of five will greatly benefit from this new program.


However, family life has not always been as joy-filled for Shamsa as it is now. In 2007 when she was living with her large family in Somalia, the ongoing civil war wreaked havoc on them. “I lost too many people,” Shamsa recalls. “I lost my twin sister and my older brother because of the war... and then, we moved immediately the next morning,” she says about uprooting her normal but dangerous life in Somalia and moving to a refugee camp in Ethiopia. She also lost her father before fleeing. With only her mom and two brothers, she worked at Camp Awbare for eight years while she patiently waited to come to the United States.


Shamsa helped her fellow refugees who were sick and during that time she met her husband, Hassen. The pair was together for seven years, but due to differences in paperwork, Hassen was unable to come with Shamsa and her immediate family to Spokane.


Shamsa, her two surviving brothers and her mother arrived in the U.S on March 1st, 2016. “I’m so happy, so glad to be here, but I still can’t forget what happened to me. It’s so sad for me,” she says. “I try to forget, but I cannot. When we came here, we really try to lose all that.”


She worked at Spokane Produce for almost two years and then Goodwill to help support her family. She cannot say enough how much she appreciates those companies, because they gave her hope for the future. “Now, I can help my family, friends, myself, and do everything I wanted to do, like go to school,” Shamsa excitedly shares. “Lives change, you can work and while you work you can go study, and you can support your family.”


Shamsa has applied for her husband to come to the United States, but he is still waiting for an immigration interview in Ethiopia. She is hopeful that he will be able to resettle soon so that he can live with the family.