by Elyse Herrera

When Arooj stepped into Spokane a little over two years ago, her life was “a blank page, completely.” She had so many fears about entering this new “white world.” Shortly after arriving, there came an opportunity for friendship, something Arooj embraced head-on in her relationship with a World Relief volunteer, Olivia.

Originally from Pakistan, Arooj lived as a refugee in Sri Lanka for four years before coming to America and eventually Spokane. “As a refugee,” Arooj described, “I have always been depending on somebody.” With the help of World Relief and Olivia, she found “the hope I needed to survive.”

Arooj and Olivia’s friendship began shortly after Arooj moved into her apartment in Spokane, when World Relief matched the two of them.  They described a bond formed mostly in the ordinariness of life - things like mailing letters and moving furniture. Whether it be through installing WiFi together, watching Pakistani music videos, drinking coffee or having photo shoots, Olivia and Arooj continue to enjoy every moment together.

For Arooj, the best part about their friendship is that they “don’t care about the time. No matter how many days or months pass, whenever [they] get to see each other there will be the same feeling and the same joy.”

Of the many things Olivia describes as having learned from Arooj throughout their friendship, she is most inspired by her independence and joy. Arooj’s ability to individually “navigate so many things on her own” while being here without any of her family is impactful for Olivia and amazing to see. “She is effervescent,” Olivia says, and to have consistent joy amidst many difficulties is something Olivia says she “learns from Arooj not just once but all the time.”

Arooj and Olivia treat one another like family. “When I met her she just gave me a feeling of my mom,” Arooj described about Olivia. “It has been seven years since I saw my mom, and when I met Olivia, I thought, ‘I don’t want to let her go.’” Both of these women are each other’s “life savers,” treasure and joy.

Most of all, Olivia and Arooj are grateful to know one another. Of their friendship, Olivia is certain that is it unique, saying, “we didn’t choose each other. Jesus chose us for each other.”