Sammy worked for the Eritrean government for three years before the National Assembly elected a new leader. New leadership had limited sympathy for supporters of the old regime and Sammy, his wife, and 2 young children were targeted after the transition. The new regime forced many into exile, their only option was to flee or to die. Police forces would soon find him. Sammy imagined his children watching as he was beaten and tortured for his political beliefs. Although he hated to leave his home and his country, his children were worth more to him than his political loyalties.
The family left Eritrea, bringing only what they could physically carry. Knowing that the journey ahead would be long and punishing, they carried sacks of fresh water and what food they had left in their house. The extreme weight of these provisions limited their ability to carry extra clothes, photo albums, or children’s toys.
Sammy and his family first arrived in neighboring Sudan. They then traveled to Libya, across the Mediterranean Sea into Algeria, until finally arriving by foot in Romania. Their journey lasted three years and they traversed over 3,000 miles. Along the way they stopped in small towns for supplies and searched for work to gain meager earnings. Sammy found employment as a day laborer whenever he could and his wife, Aster, was occasionally able to find work cleaning.
Upon arrival in Romania, Aster was pregnant with her 3rd child and the family needed help. Their children had been out of school for 3 years; Sammy was physically and mentally fatigued; and Aster required immediate maternity care. It was here that they filled for refugee status. After struggling to survive for three years, the family was finally granted permission to travel to America and begin rebuilding their lives.
In November of 2011the family arrived in Washington, DC. LSS/NCA and a local congregational co-sponsor found Sammy and his family a new home in an unused vicar house. LSS/NCA staff enrolled the children, now 6 and 8 years of age, in school. Sammy quickly found a full time job at Chipotle and was able to purchase a bike for commuting. Most importantly, Aster and the new baby were provided the medical care they so very needed.
A few weeks ago we received an email from Sammy thanking our staff for the opportunities and hope we were able to offer him and his family. Recently, they moved to Indiana to connect with other family members and enjoy a lower cost of living. Their church sponsor provided them a car as a going away present and the family plans to close on their very first home next week! Both Sammy and Aster have found permanent full time jobs with healthcare benefits, and the children are excelling in school!
If you are interested in helping refugees resettle in their new homes in the Washington DC Metro region, please see our “Get Involved” webpage for more information.