Leah and Baby Dorcas' Story Continued...
Originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Leah and her family fled to Tanzania due to violent civil unrest. It took two years of vetting and additional medical screenings, until finally in March, she received the word to come.
She explains through a Swahili translator: “The way Dorcas welcomed us was very wonderful. When we came, they set us up in an apartment and when I got to the house, I found everything I needed. If I compare our friends in other states, there is a big difference. They help us every day. When we decided to move from Central Falls to Providence, Dorcas International helped us with everything because we could not do it ourselves. We are very, very thankful.”
When Leah gave birth to a baby girl in May, she wanted a way to honor those who helped her most.
“In our culture, if someone did something good for you, you may call the name of that person your child just to remember what that person did for you. Because of all the good things Dorcas International has done for us, I wished to name our daughter Dorcas. They helped us with everything. We were welcomed like kings and queens.”
Initially, when the pandemic started, Leah was afraid to give birth and care for her children during such an uncertain time. When her case manager and community health worker advised her how to safely care for her children and explained that the situation has affected everyone – regardless of religion, culture, customs – she felt reassured.
The maternity ward in the refugee camp was significantly less equipped for labor than hospitals here. Prenatal care is limited and medicine is even less readily available, explains Leah.
“What I experienced at the hospital in the refugee camp, was different than here. When I went to the hospital here I was treated as a queen. The nurse did everything to make me feel comfortable and to make sure I had everything I needed.”
“I wish it was possible that all my children were born in America,” she says.
As a social worker in the camp, Leah worked with a variety of organizations that socially and economically empowered local women, specifically widows, single mothers, and survivors of sexual assault and domestic abuse.
“I was working with women at risk, victims of rape and violence during the wartime. Many people needed help. We worked with a group of women from different countries, Burundi and Congo, for six months at a time.”
One day she hopes to return to work as a women’s rights advocate.
Still growing accustomed to the cultural differences, and at times lonely for the family she left behind, she hopes to meet other women in the community, find a job, and practice English.
“The message that I would like to share with other refugees, is not to forget about all the good things and help we receive when we first arrive. I am telling my friends and relatives in the refugee camp about the help we have received from the community in Rhode Island. I also tell refugees in Tanzania how I wish they can come to Rhode Island.”
It’s fitting that baby Dorcas’ namesake was inspired by an organization founded by women who – like Leah – fought for the wellbeing of women and their families.
-- By Alli-Michelle Conti
Photography by Rythum Vinoben