With a desire for a better life, Siham* moved her family to America. But life didn’t get better, it got worse, at least at first.
Siham became aware of the developmental difficulties of her three-year-old identical twin daughters, Aliyah and Samiirah, when she brought them to their yearly checkup. The doctor noticed that the girls were not only delayed, but that they communicated through emotion and a language of utterances between them that didn’t resemble English, Spanish, or Arabic. No one could understand them. Between the language barrier and increasing instances of fits and tantrums, Siham knew she had to take action.
She was referred to a speech pathologist and searched for resources to help her work with her daughters, but met with many challenges. Unfortunately, her own husband discouraged and demeaned her, and created barriers for the family to receive services. “During a home visit,” Siham recalls, “my husband texted me from the other room, telling me to kick out the home visitors.” He deliberately worked to isolate them from the community. “He kept us pent up in the apartment most of the time, and I felt alone and hopeless,” Siham shares, as other agencies dropped them because of the immense obstacles in the way.
Everything changed with a referral to Way to Grow in 2015 when she began working with Family Educator Collette. “The first time we met,” remembers Collette, “I could feel her hopelessness and emptiness. But I could also feel her strength, potential, and love for her daughters.”
Their strong bond transcended education. “Collette was the first person to make me feel comfortable here, and I knew she cared about us,” reflects Siham. “She gave me hope and kept reminding me of my strength.” Collette visited regularly, bringing diapers and food, even though Siham’s husband became angry and threatened to call the police if Collette returned.
Finally, after several instances of physical abuse, Siham gained the courage to leave her husband and seek independence, a better life, and a brighter future for her daughters. “Collette and Way to Grow helped empower me to realize my strength, ask for help, and leave.”
Today, Siham is an American citizen, and she and her daughters are living in transitional housing. Aliyah and Samiirah, now six, are thriving in school, have many friends, and love the creative arts. Siham seeks permanent housing, a stable job, and a return to school once settled. “I want an education and a good job so I can provide for them, and then give back because Way to Grow has given me so much,” she shares. “My mom told me once, ‘It is not enough to receive help, but to give it too.’” She dreams of a beautiful home and her daughters coming home from school with awards.
Siham admits they still have a long way to go to reach their goals, but success and change is no accident. It is the culmination of hard work, perseverance, community, and a burning spirit to become and create something more.
*Names have been changed