On World Refugee Day: Eliza's Story

Each day, thousands of families flee their homes to reach safety for their families. On World Refugee Day, June 20, the United Nations, civic groups, and others around the world raise awareness of plight refugees face. 

When refugees resettle, they often continue to face challenges while navigating their new homes.

EveryStep strives to assist many of these families in Polk County through the aid of its nearly 30 on-staff interpreters, translation services and its health and human services programs.

It's these programs that assisted Eliza and her husband, Valintin, when they arrived in the U.S. nearly three years ago.

The family, who fled conflict and unrest in their home country of Congo years before, had been staying in Tanzania before they were able to come to the United States. At first, their destination was Arizona, but after learning there were fewer job opportunities there, a family friend suggested Iowa.

"The only jobs were for people who spoke English," Eliza recalls. "They were only dishwashers and they didn't pay good. My husband couldn't support his family."

In Iowa, Valintin found work at Tyson Foods, and the family has been able to carve out a sense of home.

"We like it here very much, I don't think we will move anywhere," Eliza said recently.

Still, the family, which includes eight children, had a difficult time connecting with their new community and finding the services they needed. Soon, a friend from Africa began to help the family find assistance. That's when they were connected to EveryStep, and began to visit with a case manager.

The family was then enrolled in EveryStep’s Healthy Start and Empowerment Family Support Projects.

Through the programs, EveryStep provides visits, education and health screenings to pregnant and parenting women who would like extra support to ensure a healthy child and family.

As a participant in the program, Eliza received assistance navigating the local health care system and education during her pregnancy with her now nearly 2-year-old daughter, Lontin. 

"We are very happy and grateful to have them," Eliza said of EveryStep. "The help with many things."

While Eliza is happy to have the help of EveryStep, she still misses her friends and family back home.

"If I had a friend who came here, I would encourage them to join the program," she said. "They can connect you with a lot of good resources."