Wahidah: A Country to Call Home

Wahidah was born in Burma, but was not recognized as a citizen of that country because she is Rohingya, a highly persecuted ethnic, religious and linguistic minority.

Intense persecution in Burma led Wahidah’s family to flee their home. They lived for many years as refugees in Malaysia, until finally they were invited by the U.S. government to resettle legally in Chicago.

In order to become citizens, refugees must live in the U.S. for five years and pass a Naturalization Exam. As soon as Wahidah became eligible for citizenship, Exodus matched her with Carol, who volunteered to help Wahidah study for the exam. 

The first time Carol went to meet with Wahidah, she had some trouble finding the apartment.

“It’s a little ironic, but in the moment I felt like I understood what it must be like to be in a land where everything is foreign,” Carol reflected later. “I actually think it helped me to feel what Wahidah might have felt when she arrived in the U.S.” 

After months of preparing for the exam, with Carol’s help, Wahidah passed the test! And with the help of another Exodus volunteer, John, Wahidah’s father also passed the exam and became a U.S. citizen. 

“In Burma, I was not recognized as a citizen,” Wahidah said. “In Malaysia, I was a refugee, still without a country. This is the first time in my life I have been a citizen of any country. It is very special.”

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