HOUSTON – Millions of refugees who flee violence in their home countries trade one fear for another -- the fear for their lives is exchanged for the insurmountable fear of the unknown.
Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston’s Refugee Services has helped refugees from 30 countries for the past three decades.
These days, they help many women and children who arrive from places like Iraq and Syria.
Widad Aljanabi is one of those women who left the life she knew in Baghdad, Iraq to start over in Houston.
“(I was) scared and sad,” Aljanabi said. “Sad because (Iraq was) my country -- my area, my neighbor, my family."
Aljanabi, like many other refugees who come to Houston, turned to Interfaith Ministries for help with housing, English classes and job placement.
What seemed to be missing was the social life she and others said they've enjoyed in their home countries.
Chloe Krane, an Interfaith volunteer, noticed that void and decided she wanted to do something about it.
"One of the things they leave behind when they flee their home country is this big spiderweb network of community,” Krane said. "I noticed that they were extremely isolated. They would spend long hours by themselves -- alone every day."
So Krane decided to establish a women’s group that would help refugees make friends, meet native Houstonians and get help navigating the complexities of life in a new country.
Krane’s passion to help refugees was sparked a decade ago when she worked as a television producer in the Middle East, telling stories of pain amid violence and civil war.
"You feel helpless. Yeah, you're covering the news story but there is nothing that you are doing to help someone who is in dire need of help right in front of your face. When I came to Houston, I just felt like this was my opportunity to give back for all those times I had witnessed and watched and silently done nothing.”
Now, Krane spends much of her time helping women adjust to life in Houston beyond simply learning a new language.
Everyday tasks like figuring out which bus to put your children on to go to school can be complicated by language and cultural barriers, so Krane and other volunteers show up in the mornings to help their clients feel more comfortable.
"I feel like that's what our group and our volunteer team can bring. Those small kindnesses that make everything easier for people."
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