Mandah Chimgeew’s English is strong, and her words, thoughtful, as she articulates her family’s long and pain-filled journey.
She, her husband, and five children are newcomers to the United States. For them, relief came after over a decade of attempts to flee the unimaginable horrors that we, born on American soil, struggle to comprehend.
Mandah was born and raised in a largely Buddhist country, in East Asia*. She enjoyed a stable childhood, worked hard at school and graduated. She then went on to attend a private university, studying to become a French teacher.
“It was during studying my second year that I met my husband,” Mandah recalls, “We got married when I was just 19 years old!”
But their love was met with great disapproval from the bride’s family, due to cultural and religious differences, so she followed her new husband back to his home country of Pakistan.
Mandah was soon to discover the realities of living in the Middle East. Pakistan, in particular, has long been home to extreme violence, fueled by an unstable political system, sexism, and religious intolerance.
She shares, somberly about this season of their life—
“The first one to two years were smooth, then as time went on we were horrified. We had four kids there, and during that time we faced so many terrible things. There were bombs. Bodies. You could not be sure if someone was going to come kill you.
A new convert to Islam, Mandah remembers going to the mosque to pray. “I was scared of what could happen to [us]. I made myself strong. I’m not there [anymore], but sometimes I think about how horrible that was. Just horrible. “
One incident, in particular, left more than just emotional scars—it left physical ones, too. “Robbers came,” Mandah shares, softly. “I had gold jewelry bangles on my hand… they just cut it. You cannot imagine that kind of pain,” she says, finishing with a long silent pause.
“Every day we would send our kids to school, and we would pray they would come back safe. [Finally] my husband said, ‘We have to go. I cannot accept if something [else] were to happen to my wife and kids.’”
Fearing for their lives, the family packed up their belongings and headed for Mandah’s home country, back in East Asia. But the violence they left behind was soon replaced by family drama.
Mandah’s husband pursued proper documentation to live and work legally within the country, but it was to no avail. Come to find out, Mandah’s very own mother and sisters were bribing government officials to deny his requests.
Mandah remembers going to immigration shortly after the birth of her fifth child, “I asked, ‘Why no permission?’ After eleven months, I [figured out] my family was the one stopping [his approval]. In [my home country] there is too much corruption. If you have a government friend, you can do anything.”
Her family’s intolerance for their interracial marriage and differing faith grew. When threats and bribes turned to beatings, the couple was forced to flee, once more.
Unwilling to return to either’s home countries, the family applied for refuge in Bejing. Just when they thought things couldn’t be any more difficult, life threw another, unexpected punch. The country approved her husband and children, but declined Mandah refugee status, giving her only ten days to leave the country.
Forced to separate, Mandah took their 8-month old and returned home to East Asia, leaving her husband and four other kids behind.
The determined couple pressed on, applying for refuge—for their entire family—in the United States. So began their long wait to reunite.
Five years they lived separate, waiting, hoping, filling out documents, and praying.
Finally, last November they got the news: they were all approved. The family reunited, at last, in December 2016, and began the long-road to rebuild their life, together, in Clarkston, Georgia.
Mandah does not deny the challenges of being in a new, and unfamiliar country, but makes it clear that they pale in comparison to the hardships they left behind.
“Thank god everything is in the past,” Mandah sighs heavily, “We are struggling—still struggling for our kids’ future. We have to work hard… sacrifice for our family, for our kids’ future. But we are finally in a country where we have human rights, and freedom. Finally our kids are in a safe place.”
In need of a job to help support her family, a refugee agency connected Mandah to Amplio’s Atlanta office. There, the team worked to find her a job in spite the many challenges facing her.
“Transportation in Atlanta is very hard. Since I didn’t have a car, I didn’t think I could find a job. My husband works night shift, and there always has to be someone at home with the kids.”
Against all odds, Amplio found Mandah a potential opportunity with Orchard Senior Living, an assisted living facility less than 2 ½ miles from her home. The job was a perfect fit for Mandah. She interviewed, and was chosen for a kitchen server position.
Now, after nearly four months with Orchard, Mandah lights up talking about her job. “They are nice people. It is a nice job… They always encourage me. Elderly people are so lovely. I have many friends now,” she laughs, “They are old, but they love me a lot!”
The job has helped her family attain something they’ve never had before: stability. With just her husband working, the family had struggled to pay rent and put food on the table. “Now I am working, and we are [doing much] better,” Mandah says.
In between her job and raising five children, now ages 7-16, Mandah has also been working towards her GED, which she plans to complete in the next couple weeks.
There is an ever-present sense of relief, hope, and gratitude as Mandah shares the highs and lows of the past two decades. She is strong and, yes, brave—but the scars of rejection, persecution and violence have not hardened her heart toward mankind.
“Finally god has given me rest,” she says, “In America everyone has a good heart. Some [are misconceived or misunderstand]. Many don’t realize what refugees have been through, what we have faced. We have been through many things nobody can imagine. You cannot blame anyone. Some people feel we are a burden, but… we are fighters.”
Mandah, is among dozens who walk through Ampio’s doors every week, eager for good employment so that they can rebuild their lives and give back to the country who has given them an invaluable gift: freedom.
At Amplio, we love connecting companies with the legal and motivated refugee workforce. We make the hiring process easy—completing e-verification, drug testing, insurance and payroll, so you can reap the benefits of efficiency and reduced turnover.
With locations in Atlanta, Austin, Dallas, Raleigh, and even London, we are standing by to be your labor shortage solution. Contact us today or visit our website at www.ampliorecruiting.com to learn more.
*Mandah wished to keep the identity of her home country anonymous for this post