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Alone, stuck in a strange land

AMMAN, Jordan — Helima, wearing a red scarf over her shoulders, sat daintily on the bed beside me. Over the phone, Amina, the daughter of one of the other women, translated Helima’s story into English.


Helima met her husband in Sana’a, Yemen, and they spent the early years of their marriage working together. She earned an income by traveling between cities and neighborhoods, buying and selling clothes. The couple had six children, some of whom are still in Yemen finishing school.


In 2014, the war heavily impacted the citizens of Yemen, forcing many to flee, even to countries experiencing their own conflicts. The Houthi forces infiltrated Sana’a, causing children to stop attending school and adults to leave their jobs.


“If we stayed in the house, we feared the airplanes would send down bombs from Saudi Arabia,” Helima said. She explained that if you go outside for more than two hours, you are guaranteed to hear bombings around you.


She packed her life into a suitcase and took her family to Somalia. Despite the civil unrest there, they felt safer in Somalia. However, Helima desired a more stable country to live in, leading her to Amman, Jordan.


Like most refugees, she went through the UNHCR to apply for refugee status and seek help and support. When she requested aid, the UNHCR would often tell her to wait or simply refuse her request. Finding a job was at the top of her list.


Despite not having the right to work, she tried to do house jobs like cooking and cleaning for other families. However, because she is older, it was difficult to get hired, as people usually preferred younger girls for the job. Her children took on house cleaning instead.


Her struggles go far beyond not being able to find a job; she is disheartened by her children’s inability to attend school and the lack of a stable source of income for necessities like water and food.


“Every night we are thinking about the money,” Helima explained.


Helima further shared her desire for a normal, simple life, “like the others.” Above everything, she wants to feel safe and secure in a country that will provide her with basic rights.


She feels a sense of imprisonment, unable to return to Yemen or Somalia due to a failed relationship with her husband and the brutal murder of her parents.


With her eyes on the future, she continues trying to find work for herself and her children so they can receive a proper education and have a protected future.

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