SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah is home to about 60,000 refugees, and they come to the Beehive State seeking a new beginning and find it’s not always easy.
Samira Harnish runs the Women of the World organization, which has a mission to help refugees build new lives in Utah.
“I am originally from Baghdad, Iraq,” Harnish said. “I came in in 1979.”
Harnish left war-torn Iraq about 36 years ago and never looked back. Today, the retired engineer helps refugees resettle in Utah.
It’s a line of work she fell into when she volunteered as a medical interpreter at Huntsman Cancer Institute.
“They always told me they wish they had a woman that could listen to us, to hear us, to see what we need in here,” Harnish said.
In 2010, Harnish founded Women of the World, and the organization sets up women and their families from all over the world.
“We have Nepal, Burma, and Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Pakistan,” Harnish said.
The group helps participants find housing and jobs, and they’re also taught practical English.
“To give the resources for those families and show them the way, this is it, simple things,” Harnish said. “I guide them to that place where they want to go.”
Ghasaq Maiber and her family moved to Utah in 2009 from Iraq.
“It was our first time to see snow,” Maiber said.
She’s since received a bachelor’s degree in English and works as a teacher's aide at Olympus High School. She also just bought her first home.
“Samira help me a lot,” Maiber said.
She said her next goal is to finish her studies and become a teacher.
Jemima Singoma, originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, is another who has been helped by Women of the World.
“I didn’t know how to read my own language until I got here,” she said.
Singoma said she left the Congo to find a better life, and she is currently thriving in high school and plans to attend college after graduating.
Layla Nassiri, originally from Morocco, said it can be tough to relocate.
“When we came here for the first time, it’s not easy, it’s hard,” she said.
Nassiri is settling into her new life with her husband and two young sons, and the family says Harnish has made the transition easier.
Harnish said many participants are working to constantly improve their outlook.
“When their kids are at school, they want to do something, to go out and to learn how to drive,” she said.
These women are survivors, and they are finding their place in their new home.
“I always ask everyone to be friends with those people,” Harnish said. “To smile to them, to respect them because they are a human being.”
The group is always in need of additional support and volunteers. For more information, visit their website.