Conflict has forced millions of Iraqis to leave their homes and seek protection elsewhere – often beyond the borders of their own country, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Hanan Ibrahim Ismail Mohammed, 35, and her father Mohammed, 75, found refuge in Austin, Texas, after they were exiled from Iraq during the war. In possession of not much more than their IDs and immigration papers, the small family bounced from place to place in north Austin while looking for stable housing. "I struggled in Austin – living in Texas," Hanan said, "because I needed subsidized housing and I couldn’t pay rent." Finances became more difficult when Hanan suffered an injury that affected her health for more than a year. "That was a big thing that affected me," she said, "I was going through lots of treatment, and it’s affected my vision and my hearing." Fortunately, after applying for public housing, Hanan and her father received a letter from HACA informing them they were eligible for an apartment at Santa Rita Courts in east Austin. Hanan said the opportunity to live at a HACA property while she was recovering from her injury was a godsend. “HACA is friendly, and whenever we have any issue or any question, we have someone to answer us and tell us what to do and where to go,” she said. “It’s very helpful. First of all, on the rent, and it’s a safe environment. The third thing is the activities.” Hanan and her father connected with HACA ROSS Specialist Dominique Sam, who provided them information about a number of resident programs, including English as a Second Language classes at nearby churches, and GED classes at Austin Community College and the Ascend Center for Learning. HACA provided Hanan a GED test voucher. “[HACA has] helped me to find the resources, where to start, what to study — it’s made me more exposed to the resources and apply myself in a better way — So I know now what’s next.” So what is next for Hanan? With HACA’s support, she recently finished her GED. Her experience serving on the Resident Council and volunteering with Mobile Loaves and Fishes and the Capital of Texas Food Bank has inspired her to apply for an Austin Pathways HACA Scholarship so she can go to college and pursue a career as a volunteer coordinator. “I can do more and more, and first of all help myself be a self-sufficient person, and help my dad, and my ultimate goal — the big goal — is to help the community and the people — whoever struggles in life. I feel like I can handle most of my struggles, and I feel like I can help the people.”
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