Staff Feature: Lanette Pieterse

IMG_1409 Lanette_4Meet Lanette Pieterse, Employment Specialist, World Relief Spokane:

I was born and raised in South Africa. In 2009 I moved to Vietnam to teach English. There I met my husband, an American, who was also teaching. I lived in Vietnam for about a year and a half and during that time we got engaged. My husband’s parents moved to Spokane, and shortly after we moved here also. It was a harder adjustment to America than I had thought. I imagined it would be like the movies, so it took me by surprise when the small differences added up. Simple things like personal space and the sense of humor made the move more difficult. My sense of purpose and my life with my husband helped me feel comfortable here.

I began job searching in Spokane but I really struggled to find a job I enjoyed. I worked freelance jobs for about a year until I came to World Relief in June 2014. In my job, I work for a federally funded pilot. The program deals with life skills, personal strength building, stress management, health and well-being and how to communicate effectively. It is designed to create long-term success for many different groups of people. We all work here because we want to see refugees be successful and self-sufficient, and that is the driving force for why I do what I do. One of my favorite stories in this job is of a father who was placed as a volunteer at Goodwill. He had a prosthetic arm and spoke very little English, but to him these were no barriers to success. He was eager to start working even if it meant not getting paid. The managers were so impressed with him they ended up hiring him full time!

I think many people don’t realize how normal refugees are in the sense that they want to be successful and they want to be happy. They are as complex and individual as anyone else you meet. My hope is that people view refugees for more than the tragic story that they may have walked though. At the end of the day they are just people desiring a new start.

Staff Feature: Haitham Dawoud

This is the second installation of a series featuring the talented and diverse staff of World Relief Spokane.

Meet Haitham Dawoud, Finance Manager, World Relief Spokane:

IMG_0882-2“I lived my childhood in Kuwait and returned to Iraq when Kuwait was invaded in 1991. In Kuwait, I attended an American school and grew up speaking English and Arabic all of my life. In Iraq I was threatened and shot at so I didn’t stay. In 2003 when Iraq was liberated I left to work for an American organization in Guinea, West Africa. During that time my family left to Syria to begin the refugee process so I traveled to Syria for just a few short months to be with them. I did not apply to be a refugee because the program then was not established like it is now. During that time, I was contacted by a previous employer from America and asked if I would be interested in working for an American organization in Madagascar. I began working on getting my masters from an American University in Kenya. It was there that I met my wife, also studying Science of Administration and International Development. Within six months we left to China, got married, moved to America in April 2008, and began working for World Relief Spokane in May 2008. I have been working as the Finance Manager ever since.

“My job has many aspects, the government side and the people side. Some days the funding is stable, and sometimes it’s not. Some people come with expectations, usually high ones, and some do not. Many people face a number of cultural issues when they arrive in America and often times find the adjustment difficult. The other side of it is the community aspect. Some communities are accepting of refugees and some are not. The few that are not, often don’t understand refugee resettlement and what it actually means. It is important to be well communicating to the community and well educating to the community at the same time. When a refugee arrives with a hardworking attitude and motivation, that motivation always leads to excellence.”

Staff Feature: Jackson Lino

This is the first installation of a series featuring the talented and diverse staff of World Relief Spokane.

Meet Jackson Eremugo Lino, Resettlement Specialist, World Relief Spokane:

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“I was born in Sudan in 1988 with 13 brothers and sisters. Four years before my family moved to America we traveled to Cairo, Egypt to begin the refugee process. There, our situation was deemed severe enough to be placed as refugees in America. We moved to Boise, Idaho in 1999 and resettled through World Relief. I was 12 years old when I started school and began really learning English for the first time. At first, it was a lot of learning to adapt. I had to quickly learn how to live in America while still dealing with the trauma I experienced back in Sudan. I can still vividly remember my first cross country race. I lined up with all of the other runners and when the gun went off signaling all of the runners to start I fell down to the ground. I was so traumatized from the sounds and experiences from my past. I thought guns were going off and I was unsafe. Everyone looked over and started asking if I was hurt. They didn’t understand the fear. Refugees come to America with so many different experiences. Today I deal with that by helping people understand what my culture was like, by loving the community around me and by looking forward.”
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“My passion has always been to help people. I am a community type of person. That’s how I feel fulfilled. By loving people and serving people I have purpose. It’s been a blessing to work with World Relief. Refugees want the opportunity to excel, like we all do. Refugees are over-comers – they are strong people who I’ve seen walk through storms most of us can’t imagine. I have lived the life of a refugee, and I take what I experienced into helping all of the refugees I work with here at World Relief. It was hard, and it was a lot of overcoming obstacles. But I always highlight the fact that if I have come this far, so can they.”


Jackson shares a laugh in the World Relief Spokane waiting room.



The “Language” of Play

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On May 14th several families gathered at the Mobius Children’s Museum in downtown Spokane. The gathering group consisted of refugee families as well as their American volunteers. They were matched together through World Relief’s mentorship program.


As the families approached the entrance of the museum, two little girls could be seen holding hands. Though they had met only that morning and did not share the same nationality, native language, religion or skin color, they were united in one all-encompassing goal: to have fun!

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The kids were all laughter and non-stop action. They raced from bubbles to sand to water and back again. They were dentists, firemen, inventors, and superheros. They were kids – beautiful, wild and free, and they proved that the language of play transcends all barriers.

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World Relief would like to thank Mobius Spokane for generously donating the day passes that made this awesome play time possible! We also want to honor the incredible volunteers who invest in World Relief Spokane clients. Our volunteers carve out time in their busy schedules and step out of a world that is comfortable to pour into the lives of families who have been uprooted through unimaginable pain. It is not always easy nor glamorous, but it is so deeply needed. We celebrate our volunteers, and we rejoice that we get to live in Spokane, a city that sees the value of welcoming the newcomer!


If you are interested in becoming involved with the work of World Relief, click here for more information.



Spokane’s Refugees: The Security Process

Fawzia is a refugee from Sudan. Refugees must pass through seemingly endless steps before they reach safety in the U.S. Fawzia shared her story about the security process with writers: Ben Shedlock and Lucinda Kay. This story is part of a series on Spokane’s refugees. #RefugeeCrisis #HomeSweetSpokane

Life changed forever in 2001, you know? It got so much harder. I always had to explain to so many people, so many security officers, so many agencies, about my travels, my history and my purpose every single time I wanted to go anywhere.

Maybe you know what I mean.

Life changed forever in 2001. That’s the year I had to run from my own country of Sudan and run to Cairo. I had to go. My father was dead, I’d been shot and my husband had already escaped.

My name is Fawzia; I’m a refugee from Sudan. My chapter is about security.

Life changed for everyone in 2001. I know you suffered. Traveling became hard for you, too. And for many months, America did not accept any refugees like me. When America finally said yes to refugees again, more security asked so many more questions. New agencies asked us:

Why did you come, what has happened to you?

Where is your family?

They asked about security. About war.

America checked our backgrounds, and still, refugees wait many years to find safety in America. When I ran away, I lived in Cairo, in a neighborhood called Mohandiseen. My husband ran to Egypt in 1999, so I went where he was. I was there for 12 years before I could escape to America.

We had no food, so school, no job, no medicine, no government to help us, no government to claim us. I was very sad. But when we don’t have, other people help. When I arrived in Cairo, my husband took me to the United Nations to register as a refugee. I told them why I came and what happened in Sudan. I told them about my family, about security and about war. That meeting took 4 hours. I was afraid to tell them everything. In my country, women don’t always talk. We are shy.

The U.N. rejected my application. They didn’t understand me. I think it’s because I speak Arabic, and they are foreign: they are not Arab, not American. We appealed. They told me to wait two years. I said it’s too long. We went back to the U.N. sixteen times. Each visit was maybe two hours. I would feel happy when I went, but after two or three months, I’d just feel sad. It feels like we had to go to the U.N. one hundred times.

Each time I explained why I came, what happened in Sudan, what happened to my family, about security, about war; but I’m not scared because I am a refugee.

The UN is just the beginning of the process for refugees who come to America. After the UN accepts us, we go to a resettlement support center that works with America. Again, we must explain what happened in our country, what happened to our family, about security and about war.

We give fingerprints so the new agencies like homeland security can check out names. The state department investigates, then Homeland Security interviews every refugee, again. And even after all this time, they can deny the application.

For me, all these meetings took nine years. I was sad, I lived in danger, but at every meeting, I’d feel happy again because someone was listening to me and my history. America accepted my application and sent it to the state department. I went to the International Organization for Migration. I had three meetings. First I had medical tests. Then they asked me what happened in Sudan, where is your family, about security, and about war. The last interview earned us a ride to the airplane.

After the state department received my application, it was sent to one of eight agencies who would help me start a new life in America.

World Relief got my application in 2013.

In 2001, the U.N. told me to wait two years for my appeal, and I said it was too long. Then I took twelve years before I came to America, and told my story many times. Even today, after I have been accepted, I must still explain what happened in Sudan, what happened to my family about security and about war.

For a shy woman, this is a lot to say.

Thanksgiving – a time to remember when Americans welcomed those fleeing persecution

Three hundred and ninety-five years ago a group of foreigners seeking refuge from severe religious persecution landed in America.  A group of an estimated ninety-five (native) Americans welcomed them, helped them establish a colony and found someone amongst their tribes who spoke the foreign language of these new arrivals.  These Americans exhibited compassion for the struggling foreigners and worked together to provide resettlement assistance to this group who arrived with many strange customs.  It was a brutal time for these Pilgrim foreigners, but the welcoming spirit of the Americans they encountered allowed them to survive what proved to be a much more difficult resettlement than any had expected.

On November 26th, our country has a national holiday with a long tradition to remember the acts of kindness, acceptance and resettlement assistance Americans provided to those fleeing their country of birth.  The act of welcoming victims of persecution to our country makes up the fabric of the foundation on which our country is established.  On Thanksgiving we remember, we celebrate, those Americans who saw the foreigners not as a threat to their livelihood, but rather as human beings, strange as they were, who needed help in getting resettled here in this land.

Media coverage of the recent attacks in Paris has brought the refugee crisis back to the forefront of the international consciousness.  News that one of the bombers may have entered Western Europe posing as a refugee from Syria is causing many to question the long, successful policies of refugee immigration into our country.  I am grieved when I hear statements from politicians, friends and the uninformed public that are willfully ignorant of the facts surrounding refugee resettlement.  The fact is that refugees, especially those from Syria, are fleeing exactly the kind of terror which unfolded on the streets of Paris. They have suffered the effects of this kind of violence for almost five years, creating the largest refugee crisis since World War II. They do not bring terror with them. Rather, they are fleeing from it.

The United States handpicks the refugees who resettle here, less than one half of one percent in any given year of the nearly twenty million refugees in the world.  Refugees go through multiple layers of security checks making them the most thoroughly vetted group of people ever allowed to enter the borders of the United States.  In fact, in the last thirty-six years of the modern refugee resettlement program, there has never been one refugee – brought through this process- who was arrested for domestic terrorism.  Instead of speaking to the fear of allowing terrorists into our country, I choose to rest in the incredible track record of our vetting process.  With the heightened concerns about a terrorist passing through our security protocols, which can take eighteen months or longer, our Department of Homeland Security is vastly improving and updating the process to insure that no one with evil intent is approved for resettlement as a refugee.

Recently I received an email from a community member with a grave concern about the fact that Muslim refugees had been placed in a rental home in her neighborhood. She expressed her concern very graphically and I felt the need to respond.  I expressed that I was sorry she had been misinformed.  I explained the history of this Muslim family, how they fled their country due to the radical extremists who threatened their lives.  I described how after seven years as refugees, this family had finally been processed and approved to be resettled in our city.  I provided detailed information about the security approval process and invited her to call me with any questions.  Five minutes later we were on the phone together, politely discussing the Muslim family in question. I invited her to visit them and help introduce this family to the neighborhood.  Some weeks later, I was talking with this family and they mentioned they had met the neighbor with whom I had conversed.  I listened with an increasing smile on my face as this newly arrived refugee family told me that she is the best neighbor. She shares fruit from her trees, helps with any needs they have and checks up on them daily.  This story reassured me that when people are exposed to the truth a beautiful transformation in their attitude and opinions can take place.

This Thanksgiving, let’s choose to celebrate that our country still remembers our founding principles of welcoming the “the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Mark Kadel is the Director of World Relief in Spokane, WA

Day of Giving: The world is coming home

The refugee crisis affects us right here at home, every day. You CAN make a difference. Join us for inspiration, information, and collaboration on our Day of Giving: The World is coming  home… Stand with World Relief Spokane for a day of giving on October 27th!World Is Coming Home Graphic 1

Join us in the morning: “We Are Called” Prayer Breakfast at the DoubleTree by Hilton from 7:45 AM- 9:30 AM… presented by IntelliTect


Join us in the evening for a community conversation: “The Refugee Journey” held at Gonzaga University Law School’s Moot Courtroom from 6:45pm – 8:00pm… a partnership between the Social Justice Center and World Relief Spokane

We need you to stand beside us as we serve the most vulnerable. You CAN take an active role in empowering our community to respond to the world by donating to the Welcome Home Campaign!

Register for events (link to registration)

Donate: matched two to one!  (link to donate page)

Email to become an event sponsor (
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