Client Stories «
Mana - Middle East
Mana was a landscape architect in the Middle East. In 1997, many municipal employees in Mana's home town were arrested for political reasons. She was one of them. For 18 months, she was imprisoned and tortured. "I was in solitary all the time. I was like a blind person. I lost that time. I didn't have any news from my family. As a single mother, I didn't know the situation of my two kids." Through the torture and the bad conditions of her imprisonment, Mana got into a really critical health situation. For this reason she was sent to the hospital from which she escaped to Turkey, then to the Netherlands where she stayed in a refugee camp. After four years, she was accepted by the United States as a refugee. In 2002 she arrived in San Diego.
Through SURVIVIORS Mana received medical and psychiatric care, as well as found a place to live. Mana says that SURVIVORS and other humanitarian organizations "are the only way that we can survive and adjust in this country. I think that SURVIVORS is my family, my second home. If they didn't accept me and help me, I could have committed suicide or gone crazy. And it is not only me. There are many, many victims of torture who can get treatment, get lawyers."
Mana is now a teacher in a school here in San Diego. She is thankful to be here and feels fortunate to have escaped, though many of her peers did not. "Most of them are in prison or executed. Or have a very bad situation. Many, many educated women, innocent people, are tortured-for nothing. I am the luckiest one that I am here."
Ms. D - Africa
Ms. D is a woman from Africa. She has a master's degree and had worked in the area of reproductive health and family planning. In 2000, she was detained by government security officers and accused of membership in an outlawed political organization. She was detained for 27 days, interrogated and tortured extensively. (Torture included electric shocks to the soles of her feet, beatings, having icy water thrown on her and being left in wet clothes in a very cold room, and repeated threats of death.)
After her release, Ms. D stayed in her country for several months before getting the opportunity to leave on a visitor's visa for the United States. Once here she applied for asylum, but was denied in her initial interview. She couldn't find the courage to tell her story. "When I went to the asylum office, I didn't know what to say or not to say. I was still scared. The people there are still the government. I'm running away from the government. My country is a friendly country with the United States. I didn't trust." Ms. D was referred to SURVIVORS by an attorney to help prepare her case for immigration court. "At SURVIVORS I was received. I liked the personal touch. I started to like SURVIVORS. I started feeling free. I started opening up. Before, you trust nobody. The only place you can trust is SURVIVORS. Trust is the first move of healing. Sometimes I would just come to SURVIVORS to sit in the reception area. I wasn't coming for anybody in particular. There are places you come, like you go to the beach or the ocean, just to be there. Here I'd come and get peace. Here people are happy to see you."
When Ms. D went to immigration court, she was able to testify, and she was granted asylum in the United States. She rushed to SURVIVORS to share the joy.
A.A. - East Africa
A.A. is a young man from East Africa. A.A. was conscripted into the army during a civil war with a neighboring country. He was wounded on two separate occasions when he was shot in the arm and spine. After being shot in the spine, A.A. was unable to walk without crutches for many years. Because of his disability, A.A. was sent to a camp where the government housed disabled veterans. The conditions in the camp were terrible and many of the veterans began protesting. During the protests, many of the veterans were killed by government forces. At this point, A.A. decided to flee the camp. He was able to get a job that paid him with food and lodging and he joined an evangelical church. Shortly after evangelical churches were banned in his country and he was arrested for being a member of the church. He was beaten and tortured and held in a shipping container for 3 weeks. Once he was released he decided to leave the country and come to the United States to seek asylum.
A.A. came to SURVIVORS as an asylum seeker. SURVIVORS provided him with both a medical and psychological evaluation for his case, and A.A. was granted asylum. A.A. suffers health problems because of the bullet lodged in his spine. After trying acupuncture to manage his main pain the medical case manager decided physical therapy would be best. A Change a Life grant was prepared for A.A. and he received 6 months of physical therapy. A.A. was also helped with food bags and attended one of the group outings arranged by the clinical interns. A.A.'s life has much improved since he first came to SURVIVORS and he continues to see progress and improvement.
Excerpt from a Poem by Habtama Benti
Let it be a red light for torture
never to turn to green-ever.
Let it be buried, never to grow again.
Eyes to see, ears to hear,
Noses to smell the sweetness of freedom,
Tongues to speak the truth without fear,
Hands to work with happiness and joy,
Legs to walk in the land of freedom.
To jump, to run, to dance with my nation,
To understand the reality of life
From my birth until my death,
To glorify my creator in each moment.