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Diana’s voice echoed through the crowd as the musicians played to the last note. Then the song was over. The performance was over.

Her singing was beautiful and the salary was enough to pay some bills. Life in Venezuela was hard for this single mother… every penny counted. Some days she was a singer, other days she was a teacher, beautician or seamstress. She even worked as a nurse and studied medicine.

Diana would do anything for her two daughters and her son. “My children are everything.”

As she was leaving the stage that night, she noticed a soldier who had been in the crowd. He approached her and wanted to secure a date. But Diana was not interested. The soldier and his friends threatened to blackmail her. It was a dangerous situation for Diana.

She escaped the men, but knew that this would not be the last time she would see them. Worried about her children, Diana packed her things and fled.

They travelled through several countries where they were subjected to severe discrimination. They were victims of abuse at work. Even Diana’s youngest daughter was not spared these prejudices.

“Go back to your country,” her classmates said. But the girl couldn’t go back.

When the doorbell rang, her classmates were waiting for her outside the door. They surrounded her, laughing, pulled her hair and beat her. Once they even threatened to run her over the head with a car.

When Diana confronted the teacher, the situation was dismissed. As migrants, they could not even report it to the police. The situation got worse and worse and they began to hunt down the rest of the family. Diana sent her daughter to different schools several times. The family moved twice.

Diana reported the incidents to ACNUR on behalf of UNHCR and was interviewed. After two years, she was informed that her family would be relocated to Spokane, Washington.

A breath and a new beginning

Before she left, Diana said goodbye to her eldest daughter. She had gotten married and would not be joining the rest of the family in America. It broke Diana’s heart to leave her behind, but she knew that traveling to America would be the best decision for the rest of the family.

They boarded a plane bound for Spokane in the fall of 2023. When they arrived at the airport, Diana and her family were escorted by World Relief staff to an apartment prepared for their arrival.

When she entered her new home, she felt a sense of peace. For the first time, she didn’t have to worry about putting food on the table. “It was like breathing for the first time.”

Here, Diana no longer felt oppressed. “For me, being here is a hope for a better life and new opportunities. I feel that people here value us as people.”

Diana couldn’t wait to get started. The Job Readiness Workshop gave her the opportunity to prepare her resume and she took courses at the Education Center to learn about American finance and investing.

Within three months, Diana achieved her first goal: obtaining a cosmetology license.

Nail design by Diana, a refugee who inspires others.

After eight years in the industry, Diana has experienced the impact a manicure has on self-esteem. She enjoys witnessing the transformation a woman undergoes during a manicure.

“When they’re finished, they cry,” Diana said, “because for the first time they feel beautiful.”

Diana currently works at Amazon but is excited to open her own nail salon in Spokane.

“I want to be my own boss,” Diana said, laughing.

Like many refugees, Diana is very entrepreneurial. Studies show that immigrants are twice as likely to start businesses as native-born Americans – creating more jobs and opportunities.

Diana has already invested in equipment and runs a nail salon out of her home. She is excited to expand into new premises where her dream can become a springboard for other dreamers.

“I want to open a place and give other people the opportunity to find work,” Diana said. “I want the other girls… to be able to recognize their own talent and achieve and complete their goal.”

As a mother, Diana is happy to see her own children find happiness. Diana’s son is currently working alongside his mother at Amazon, where he earns a steady salary. Her daughter can finally go back to school, where she is making friends and participating in World Relief’s youth program.

However, her eldest daughter and granddaughter still miss Diana. “I want her to be here.”

Diana speaks to refugees at the Job Club

A country where everything is possible

Diana is grateful that World Relief supported her family during the relocation process. Through the organization, they found housing, jobs and a supportive community.

“I think World Relief is a great team,” said Diana. “We have achieved our independence in a short time.”

For many, resettlement is difficult. Refugees face the daunting task of rebuilding their lives from scratch. As a refugee, Diana continues to use her story to encourage new arrivals, whether at the Job Readiness Workshop or celebrating the Education Center’s graduates.

In honor of World Refugee Day 2024, Diana was invited to share her testimony before the Spokane City Council. Surrounded by the Spokane community, she courageously stood before the council and said, “We are in a country where anything is possible, and I know this from experience.”

“I want to send this message to everyone – I did it in less than six months – the others (refugees) can do it too.”